Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Affordable Access to Stem Cell Cures Hits Hard Sledding

The latest move to ensure the affordability of stem cell cures developed by California-financed research faces opposition from both the California biomedical industry and one of the chief advocates for widespread access.

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for the Foundation for Taxpaper and Consumers Rights, said the proposed policy to be considered this Thursday by the CIRM Oversight Committee falls "far short of ensuring that all Californians will have affordable access to the therapies, drugs and cures that their tax dollars fund."

CIRM's latest access effort is linked to a new and untested law. Called the California Discount Prescription Drug Program, it was opposed by the California Healthcare Institute, which represents the state's biomedical industry. One law firm, Arnold and Porter of Washington, D.C., which has a large health industry practice, wrote about the law:
"California’s attempt to lower drug prices, by threatening drug manufacturers with prior authorization requirements, will likely face legal challenge in federal or state court. Absent a successful legal challenge, the threat of prior authorization requirements may force most drug manufacturers to the negotiating table."
Simpson's group has been nearly alone in actively advocating affordable access to the results of California stem cell research. He responded with the following when the California Stem Cell Report asked him about the access/intellectual policy proposal coming up later this week:
"The proposed for-profit (intellectual property) policies -- like the non-profit polices -- fall far short of ensuring that all Californians will have affordable access to the therapies, drugs and cures that their tax dollars fund.

"There is an appropriate formula for a payback to the state if taxpayer dollars fund discoveries that produce a revenue stream. The plan appears to strike a reasonable balance between capping the payback so companies know their potential liability and provisions that increase the state's share if there is a true 'blockbuster' discovery. The provision that Californians get preference in the event of a limited supply is only fair since we are funding the research.

"But there must be a provision to preclude the possibility of egregious profiteering. If prices are unreasonable, the state through the attorney general must have the right to intervene -- 'march in' -- and remedy the situation. There must be a reasonable relationship between the public money invested and the price that is charged.

"What must be be prevented is the Genentech situation. The National Cancer Institute provided $44.6 million to develop the cancer drug Avastin, yet Genentech set the price at $100,000 a year.

"Another troubling aspects about the for-profit policy is that it provides that there will be a discount on therapies purchased in California with public funds without spelling out the mechanism for reaching the discount. The devil will certainly be in the details.

"We see that in the non-profit regulations. The original policy called for selling drugs and therapies at the federal Medicaid price. Under incessant battering from the so-called California Healthcare Institute – actually nothing but a shill for the biomedical industry -- the regulation before the ICOC Thursday has been watered down to cover only drugs and only through the California Discount Prescription Drug Plan. It doesn't cover all purchases made by publicly funded health plans. They pledge to amend the regulation to include therapies when a mechanism is worked out, but with CHI in the picture I am frankly worried."
CIRM's affordability language says:
"As a consequence of expenditure of the 'first dollar' of CIRM funding, the for-profit awardee organization agrees to provide a plan to provide access at the time of commercialization to resultant therapies for uninsured California residents.

"In addition, the awardees will provide the therapies at a discount price to residents whose therapies are purchased in California by public funds. For drugs generated as a consequence of CIRM funding, awardees agree to provide drugs at prices negotiated pursuant to the California Discount Prescription Drug Program (commencing with California Health and Safety Code section 130500, et seq.) to eligible Californians under that program. Awardees also agree to provide discount pricing for therapies in addition to drugs that result from CIRM funding.

"In the unfortunate event of limited availability of therapeutic products resulting from CIRM funding, awardees agree to give preference to Californian residents unless prohibited by law and whenever feasible. If an awardee is unable to grant preference to Californian residents, the awardee agrees to submit a statement of justification to CIRM."
The latest legislative analysis of the prescription drug measure says:
"According to the author, this bill is needed because Californians, especially those with no drug coverage, continue to pay some of the highest costs in the world for prescription drugs. The author states that this bill uses the state's purchasing and negotiating power to help Californians cope with the rising cost of prescription drugs by creating a drug discount card program for state residents. According to the author, despite the skyrocketing cost of drugs, to date the state has done little, compared to other states, to help residents afford their medication."
Both industry and health advocate groups opposed some facets of the legislation for different reasons. You can read a discussion of those concerns in a Senate staff analysis.

Here is a piece by Health Access California on the new law.

Here is the full text.

1 comment:

  1. Stem Cell Research In Australia


Search This Blog