NHS building

First Do No Harm: The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review

By John Tingle

A new hard-hitting report on medicines and medical device safety published in the U.K. presents controversial proposals that have the potential to improve National Health Service (NHS) patient safety.

The report, The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, was published on July 8th, 2020 after a two year investigation chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege. The review investigated two medications — Primodos and sodium valproate — and one medical device — pelvic mesh.

The reviews remit was to examine how the healthcare system in England responded to reports about harmful side effects from medicines and medical devices and how best to respond in the future.

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a stethoscope tied around a dollar bill, with a bottle of pills nearby

What Ever Happened to NIH’s “Fair Pricing” Clause?

By Jorge L. Contreras

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, calls have been made for “fair” and “reasonable” pricing of the vaccines and therapeutics that will eventually be approved to address the virus. A range of proposals in this regard have been made by members of Congress, the Trump Administration, various states, academics and civil society.

Amid this current debate, it is worth remembering the brief period from 1989 to 1995 when the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) did impose reasonable pricing constraints on drugs that were developed as part of cooperative R&D agreements (“CRADAs”) between federal agencies and private industry.

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Blister pack of pills, but instead of bills dollar bills are rolled up in the packaging

To Cut Prescription Drug Spending, Stop Delays for Generic Competition

By Beatrice Brown and Benjamin Rome

Prescription drug spending in the U.S. remains high and continues to rise, accounting for about 20% of national health expenditures. While generic competition is crucial for reducing drug prices, brand-name drug manufacturers can utilize several strategies to delay such competition by increasing the length of market exclusivity for their drugs.

Although brand-name drugs only account for 18% of all prescriptions filled, they comprise 78% of total drug spending. By contrast, equally-effective, interchangeable generic drugs can offer discounts of up to 80% off their brand-name drug counterparts.

Generic competitors can only be introduced after brand-name drugs have completed their period of market exclusivity, which typically lasts 12-16 years and is largely determined by the patents covering the drug. Brand-name pharmaceutical manufacturers have strong financial incentives to prolong this market exclusivity period and delay entry of generic products.

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Large pile of amber prescription pill bottles

Monthly Round-Up of What to Read on Pharma Law and Policy

By Ameet SarpatwariCharlie LeeFrazer Tessema, and Aaron S. Kesselheim

Each month, members of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) review the peer-reviewed medical literature to identify interesting empirical studies, policy analyses, and editorials on pharmaceutical law and policy.

Below are links to the papers identified from the month of May. The selections feature topics ranging from the association between clinical benefit of approved cancer drugs and their prices in the U.S. and Europe, to an assessment of how commercial health plans cover biosimilars relative to their reference products, to a commentary on how children should be included in clinical trials evaluating COVID-19 therapies. A full posting of abstracts/summaries of these articles can be found on our website.

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a pill in place of a model globe

How Do We Arrive at Fair Pricing for COVID-19 Therapies?

By Padmashree Gehl Sampath

As the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines continues, questions of pricing and access are beginning to emerge.

How can pharmaceutical companies determine fair prices for these therapies? And how can they ensure that all those who need these treatments are able to access them? These are valid concerns in the current global pharmaceutical landscape, where in recent years, soaring drug prices have been an issue for almost all governments.

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Monthly Round-Up of What to Read on Pharma Law and Policy

By Ameet SarpatwariCharlie LeeFrazer Tessema, and Aaron S. Kesselheim

Each month, members of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) review the peer-reviewed medical literature to identify interesting empirical studies, policy analyses, and editorials on pharmaceutical law and policy.

Below are the abstracts/summaries for papers identified from the month of April. The selections feature topics ranging from increases in Internet searches for hydroxychloroquine following promotional remarks by the President, to an evaluation of health gains from orphan drugs, to an assessment of clinical trials supporting new FDA drug approvals. A full posting of abstracts/summaries of these articles can be found on our website.

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Access to Drugs Before FDA Approval: Video Explainer with Christopher Robertson.

Access to Drugs Before FDA Approval: Video Explainer with Christopher Robertson

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions about the regulation of drugs in the United States.

One such concern relates to the use of drugs for treatment of COVID-19 that have not yet been FDA approved.

In this video explainer produced by the James E. Rogers College of Law of The University of Arizona, Christopher Robertson, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research & Innovation, discusses these issues, including the Right to Try Act and off-label use of pharmaceuticals, with NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s Alison Bateman-House, MPH, PhD.

Stacks of books against a burgundy wall

Monthly Round-Up of What to Read on Pharma Law and Policy

By Ameet Sarpatwari, Charlie Lee, Frazer Tessema, and Aaron S. Kesselheim

Each month, members of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) review the peer-reviewed medical literature to identify interesting empirical studies, policy analyses, and editorials on health law and policy issues relevant to current or potential future work.

Below are the abstracts/summaries for papers identified from the month of March. The selections feature topics ranging from the utilization and cost of naloxone for patients at high risk of opioid overdose, to off-label and compassionate drug use in the COVID-19 pandemic, to public-sector financial support and sponsorship for gene therapy trials in the U.S. A full posting of abstracts/summaries of these articles may be found on our website.

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gavel on top of a pile of bills and pills

A Local City Takes on Pharma

By Phebe Hong

A city northwest of Atlanta is taking on Big Pharma. On February 6th, the city of Marietta filed a lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta against Mallinckrodt, a global specialty pharmaceutical company. The class action complaint alleges that Mallinckrodt is “unjustly enriched” by its “exorbitant and unconscionable prices” for Acthar, a therapeutic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) approved in 1952 and indicated for various disease conditions, most notably infantile spasms and multiple sclerosis relapse. Marietta brings the class action suit on behalf of itself and “[a]ll third-party payors and their beneficiaries and people without insurance” that have paid for Acthar in the past four years.

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Graph with number of biosimilar approvals on the X axis and years from 1970 until 2018 on the Y axis. The line on the graph represents a generally upward trend.

The Rise of Biosimilars: Success of the BPCIA? (Part III)

By Jonathan Darrow

This is Part III in a series exploring the history, challenges, and opportunities in the regulation of biosimilars, or biologic medical products that are very similar to already approved biological medicines.  Part III considers a path forward in the regulation of biologics.  For Part I, click here.  For Part II click here.

A Path Forward

The small number of biosimilar approvals compared to generic drug approvals cannot establish the failure of the BPCIA due to differences in industry familiarity with each follow-on pathway, the number of reference products available for copying, patient population sizes, patent barriers, and drug costs. The later arrival of US laws and guidance documents—not inadequate legal design—is the most straightforward explanation of why the first US biosimilar approvals were delayed compared to those in Europe.

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