Members and friends of Virginia Bio,
After several years of relative inactivity, federal lawmakers are in gear again. And so are we at Virginia Bio.
The 21st Century Cures Act (H.R.6) was passed in the House of Representatives on July 10 by an impressive vote of 344 to 77. This bill was bipartisan in its creation and authorizes several changes to the approval process for drugs and medical devices.
The bill also authorizes an increase of $8.7 billion for the NIH and a $550 million increase for the FDA over 5 years. The bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to revise the drug approval process by allowing patient experience data to be considered in the risk-benefit assessment of new drugs; requiring the FDA to qualify drug development tools; allowing the FDA to rely on data previously submitted for a different purpose to expedite the development of certain drugs; and establishing a streamlined data review program for approval of drugs for additional indications. The bill requires the FDA to establish a program for priority review of breakthrough medical devices, identify types of devices that do not require a report preceding introduction, and rely on a third party to determine the safety and effectiveness of changes to medical devices. The bill requires manufacturers and distributors of investigational drugs for serious conditions to publish their policies on compassionate requests; revises and extends the priority review voucher program for rare pediatric diseases; and requires a pharmaceutical and technology ombudsman within the CMS to respond to complaints from manufacturers of medical products. The bill allows Medicare prescription drug plan sponsors to limit certain beneficiaries’ access to frequently abused drugs and mandates interoperability and certification of electronic health records. The House overturned a last-minute amendment that threatened the bill’s passage by proposing to make the new NIH and FDA spending discretionary, rather than mandatory.
The Senate is working up and is expected to consider its own version of the bill in the Fall.
Intellectual property protection is at issue on a couple of fronts. Reform of the US Patent system is the work of H.R. 9, the Innovation Act, which has been captained by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA). The bill was poised to reach the floor any day, before being slowed down for additional consideration until after the August recess. The bill offers multiple procedural changes to the patent process, many of which are inspired by the scourge of patent trolls famously impacting the IT industry. Virginia Bio has joined voices with BIO, PhRMA, MDMA, the American Association of Universities, the National Small Business Administration and the National Venture Capital Association, among others, to push back against several proposals and urge other important changes. Inter partes review proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board at the PTO is effectively changing the legal standard and disrupting the certainty of patent validity. While true trolls in the IT space must be deterred, the bioscience innovation sector is so different than IT that these fixes are extremely harmful, and threaten the affordable access to dependable patents on which all investment in our sector depends. The Senate has its own version of the legislation under development. If you are interested and willing to speak with your federal lawmakers about these issues, please do so, or contact me for further information and assistance.
A very different legislative venue for IP issues, is consideration of the merits of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, now in final stages of negotiation among the Administration and counterparts from foreign nations around the Pacific Rim. Congress will have the opportunity to vote the agreement up or down when reported by the President under fast track authority. At issue is the protection of biological drugs. US law recognizes the special character of biological drugs and protects them with a 12 year period of data (or “regulatory”) exclusivity: that is, data prepared and submitted to FDA by the innovator as a condition of approval may not be used by competitors to support applications of other (usually biosimilar) drugs. The 12 year period is set by statute in the US, and balances the goal of enabling innovators to benefit from their research investment and risk taking without competitors taking a free ride, while creating a time certain after which reference is allowed to ease the entry of biosimilars into the marketplace.
Medical Device Tax Repeal. After several tries over as many years, the House on June 15 passed H.R. 160, the “Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2015.” The bill would repeal the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax on manufacturing and importing medical devices, which was implemented through the Affordable Care Act and has proven to be highly unpopular. The tax is expected to bring in less than $3.2 billion in tax revenue each year over the next 10 years to help fund Obamacare. According to the Advanced Medical Technology Association, the tax is expected to cost medical device manufacturers approximately $194 million per month and the loss of up to 43,000 jobs in the medical device industry. The Senate is now in the final stages of finishing its consideration of an equivalent bill. President Obama has promised to veto the bill if it passes the Senate as well, though some observers believe there may be enough bipartisan support in Congress to secure the two-thirds majority needed to override the president and pass it into law without his signature.
User Fee Acts. Recently we have seen the various FDA regulated bioscience industries gearing up for the every five year process between industry and FDA to reauthorize PDUFA, GDUFA and MDUFA. Over the course of more than a year, in hearings and by written comment, the will review whether past improvements have achieved intended results, set the amounts and distribution for the voluntary industry user fee payments, and consider improvements to FDA standards and procedures going forth.
Recent visits. I recently visited various Congressional offices with a delegation of members of the coalition We Work for Health to point out the above issues and thank them for their support. This is a coalition of small and large companies in the biopharmaceutical industry, patient groups, large employers and chambers of commerce, united to highlight the importance of the industry, not only for individual health but for our nation’s economic health as well. Virginia Bio was a founder of the coalition, and I serve as co-chair. Members of the coalition held a series of meetings on Capitol Hill last week: Senator Tim Kaine’s Chief of Staff, Mike Henry; Senator Mark Warner’s Legislative Director Elizabeth Falcone and Health Legislative Assistant Marvin Figueroa; Congressman Dave Brat and his Legislative Director Kurt Couchman; Congresswoman Barbara Comstock and her Chief of Staff Susan Falconer; Congressman Morgan Griffith and his legislative aid Adam Harbison; and finally Congressman Don Beyer’s Chief of Staff Ann O’Hanlon.
If you’re interested in getting involved, to discuss or want more information, please let us know. We work closely with BIO, PhRMA, MDMA and AdvaMed to watch out for and act on the federal issues which impact our industries and our companies.