U.S. lawmakers tussle over generic biologic drugs


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers tussled on Thursday over how long makers of biotechnology drugs should have an exclusive license for the expensive medicines in a hearing called to discuss a Federal Trade Commission report on the issue.

The FTC, which specializes in antitrust and consumer welfare, had concluded that passing a law allowing generic medicines for biotechnology drugs would create some savings for consumers but not the huge amounts that patients save by buying generic versions of some antibiotics and other, simpler drugs.

Democratic Representative Henry Waxman, who sponsored the original legislation creating generic drugs and is sponsoring a bill to allow five years of exclusivity for original biotech products, took issue with drug industry arguments for longer periods without competition.

"The drug industry has been engaged in a massive and expensive lobbying campaign to convince the members of this committee that the supply of life-saving drugs will dry up if they don't get triple the monopoly protection available to all other drugs," said Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

He told the committee's health subcommittee that he had seen "little or no persuasive evidence" to support industry claims that biotech companies need 12 to 14 years of exclusivity to break even.