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  Patents Pending
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Contributorparticleman 
Last Editedparticleman  Mar 03, 2005 02:50am
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CategoryProposed Legislation
News DateWednesday, February 23, 2005 10:45:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionUnless the drug industry starts to negotiate significantly lower prices, it may find itself battling debt-strapped states for control over the manufacture of drugs. States already take land and other property in order to benefit the public by building things such as roads and schools. Now some legislators and officials are saying they should be able to take away a drug company’s intellectual property, its patent. They want to give these patents, which allow a company to manufacture a product, to competitors that agree to sell the drugs to the states at much lower prices.

Patents are the key to huge drug-company profits. The industry will fight vociferously to protect them. In West Virginia, where the issue came up last summer, industry lawyers warned a legislative advisory council away from proposing such action on patents, claiming it would be unconstitutional. With virtually unlimited resources, the drug companies could drag states through courts for years. Still, the specter of states compelling companies to license their patents to other firms terrifies the industry. And even the fight to do this would open the industry to further scrutiny on pricing policy. All of which, some officials hope, could make drug companies more willing to negotiate discounts.

That’s what District of Columbia Councilman David Catania hopes will happen. Catania, a Republican who recently registered as independent after breaking with President Bush over the same-sex-marriage issue, introduced a compulsory license bill February 1. It authorizes Washington, D.C.’s mayor to declare a health emergency and, under eminent domain authority, issue a compulsory license to a generic firm to produce select patented drugs.
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