Warren calls for more transparency on Biden drug pricing ‘march-in’ review

A group of lawmakers led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is pressing the Biden administration for updates on its review of the government’s authority to seize the patents of high-priced drugs developed with public funds.

In a letter to the Health and Human Services and Commerce departments, shared first with The Hill, the lawmakers called for more transparency about a working group that has been tasked with reviewing the administration’s “march-in rights.” 

March-in rights are an authority granted under a 1980 law that allow the government to take control of a private company’s patent and license the product to other manufacturers if it is not made available to the public on reasonable terms. 

In the letter sent Friday, Sens. Warren, Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said they were “concerned that there have been no public updates about the Working Group’s membership, process, timeline, or scope of work in the more than two months since it was first announced.”

The Biden administration in March rejected a formal request from advocacy groups to use march-in rights to break the patent of the prostate cancer drug Xtandi as a way to lower the price. 

At the same time though, the administration announced a plan to review its march-in authority with an interagency working group and to develop criteria, “including price,” for using the rights.

The lawmakers asked the agencies for answers to questions about how the group will operate, including how agency leadership will ensure the process remains independent from “corporate interests.” 

They also pressed for a list of patents that have benefited from government resources.

The Inflation Reduction Act gives Medicare the ability for the first time to negotiate the prices of some drugs, but progressives like Warren want the administration to go further to lower drug prices, including by breaking patents. 

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