Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Text of Lawmakers Letter

Here is the full text of the letter from Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally and 11 other state lawmakers concerning affordable access to state-financed stem cell therapies.

Dear Mr. Klein:

Recent proposed regulations pertaining to intellectual property and revenue sharing requirements for for-profit grantees, dated November 24, 2007, contain some notable improvements over previous versions of the regulations but still have a number of troublesome provisions that we urge you to correct before these regulations are finalized.

We are pleased that the most recent regulations propose to require grantees to share 25 percent of the net licensing royalties they receive, the same percentage as is applied to grantees that are non-profit organizations. We are also pleased that the regulations have broadened the definition of “drugs,” for which grantees or their licensees would be required to meet benchmark pricing requirements, to include articles intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease or components thereof, including products such as blood, blood products, cells, and cell therapies. We are also encouraged that provisions dealing with blockbuster revenue sharing requirements for for-profit grantees have been made more flexible, to include cases where either prior or current CIRM funding and CIRM-funded patented inventions contribute to the creation of net commercial revenue in excess of $500 million.

We are disappointed, however, that the access requirements continue to require that access plans for uninsured Californians meet “industry standards at the time of commercialization.” This is a weak and vague standard that is unlikely to result in any meaningful access for the uninsured to new stem cell drugs and therapies. The proposed regulations actually take a step backwards from previous iterations, by allowing the access plans, themselves, to account for the “resources of the grantee or licensee”, an undefined phrase that will encourage grantees and licensees to limit access to these vital, but expensive new drugs and therapies.

Related to this, we see no provisions in the regulations requiring CIRM or the ICOC to actually approve the proposed access plans that are submitted, meaning that there would be no effective enforcement of the access requirements, vague and weak as they are. We think the regulations must spell out specific access standards, taking into account the best industry practices that currently exist, and to require CIRM and the ICOC to approve the access plans, with opportunity for public comment.

In addition, while we would prefer the benchmark pricing requirement for grantees and licensees to be the Medicaid price, we understand the desire of the CIRM and ICOC to link the pricing requirement to a California-based standard. While requiring that prices for stem cell drugs and therapies purchased with public funds must meet one of the three benchmark prices required by the California Discount Prescription Drug Program (Cal Rx) fulfills this, there is no guarantee that this particular program will exist in the future. As you know, the Governor blue-penciled start-up funding for the program in signing the 2007-08 budget. If the program were to be repealed, there would be no pricing requirement whatsoever in place. We strongly urge that the regulations deal with this potentiality by stating the benchmark prices will be those required by Cal Rx, or if it is no longer in effect, on the last day it was in effect.

We wish to commend you on the work the CIRM and ICOC have done to date on this important policy, and we strongly urge you to go further to ensure that the state, and the public, broadly, benefit from the patents, licenses, and royalties created as a result of the state’s funding, while at the same time promoting the development of stem cell therapies.


Chair, Senate Health Committee
Chair, Assembly Health Committee

Assemblymember Karen Bass
Senator Negrete McLeod
Assemblymember Patty Berg
Senator Darrell Steinberg
Assemblymember De La Torre
Senator Leland Yee
Assemblymember Noreen Evans
Assemblymember Mary Hayashi
Assemblymember Hernandez
Assemblymember Dave Jones
Assemblymember Sally Lieber
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