Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kuehl Legislation Up for Hearing This Afternoon

Legislation aimed ensuring a return on California's $3 billion stem cell research effort and affordable access to state-financed cures is scheduled to be heard this afternoon in a state Senate committee hearing that can viewed live on the Internet.

The measure by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, is on the agenda of the Judiciary Committtee, its last stop before it could move to the Senate floor. The session begins at 1 p.m. PDT today. It can be seen on Calchannel.com. We recommend that you check in earlier to be sure your computer is properly configured to see the action.

The Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayers Rights Monday said the legislation is laudatory but falls short in guaranteeing affordable access to stem cell therapies funded by CIRM research. The measure is opposed by CIRM and the biotech industry.

The foundation said in a letter to legislators written by John M. Simpson, its stem cell project director:

"Foremost among the positive aspects, the bill clearly establishes that the Legislature has an appropriate role in oversight of the state’s stem cell institute, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. It requires intellectual property regulations that provide for a fair and reasonable financial return to the state on any discoveries made as a result of state financing. It also requires price discounts for drugs, therapies and diagnostics purchased with public money and that organizations receiving licenses provide reasonable access to therapies, drugs and diagnostics for uninsured Californians.

"However, SB 771 contains no provision ensuring that all Californians will gain affordable access to the results of the research they have funded. No one begrudges a company a reasonable profit. What must be prevented is egregious profiteering when public funds have been used to develop a therapy, drug or diagnostic.

"I wish this were only a hypothetical issue; it is not. Genentech’s lifesaving cancer drug Avastin was launched with the benefit of $44.6 million in public funding. Nonetheless, the company originally priced the drug at $100,000 for a year’s supply. Only after months of outrage has Genentec capped Avastin’s price at $55,000 a year.

"SB 771 needs a provision that would prevent this sort of abuse when public funds help produce important drugs and therapies. The Attorney General must have the power to intervene and reduce prices in similar cases."
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