Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stem Cell Affordability Legislation Changed to Meet CIRM Objections

The California lawmakers behind legislation to ensure affordable access to taxpayer-financed stem cell therapies moved last week to ease the concerns of the state's $3 billion stem cell research agency.

The changes were made prior to a scathing, national Internet attack on the bill's lead author by the private lobbying group run by Robert Klein, who also serves as chairman of the state stem cell agency. One consumer advocate has called for Klein's resignation in the wake of the assault by Americans for Cures, the Klein organization. The group used such terms as "ignorant," "dumb" and "craven" in connection with Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.

Late Friday, Klein's group apologized. Klein told the California Stem Cell Report he was unaware of the Internet attack by his group and said he had "great personal respect" for Kuehl. Our understanding is that he intends to personally apologize to Kuehl.

CIRM last month officially opposed Kuehl's bill, SB 1565, on the grounds that it would discourage biotech firms from developing therapies and limit the agency's flexibility to negotiate affordability issues, among other things.

In response, Sens. Kuehl and George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, made changes that appear to go a long ways in dealing with the objections. But in a letter Thursday to Kuehl, Klein expressed the agency's continued opposition. The letter, dated the same day as the Internet attack on Kuehl, was also signed by CIRM President Alan Trounson and Ed Penhoet, vice chairman of the CIRM board of directors.

Below are key sections of the latest amendments to the measure, as provided by Kuehl's office. The actual bill, however, will not be available online via the Legislature’s website until Tuesday. The measure comes up for a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The full text of CIRM's letter to Kuehl follows in a separate item.

Here are the amendments in SB 1565.
"Any plan subject to subdivision (a) shall include a requirement that each grantee and any licensee of the grantee that sells drugs that are, in whole or in part, the result of research funded by CIRM shall provide those drugs to publicly funded programs in California at one of the three benchmark prices in the California Discount Prescription Drug Program."

"Notwithstanding subdivision (c), the ICOC may waive the requirement that grantees and licensees of the grantee provide drugs that are, in whole or in part, the result of research funded by CIRM at one of the three benchmark prices in the California Discount Prescription Drug Program (Division 112 (commencing with Section 130500)), as it exists on January 1, 2008, only when the following conditions are met:
"(1) Either of the following conditions is met:
"(A) The drug shall be used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, or prevention of a rare disease or condition, as recognized by the federal Food and Drug Administration under Section 360bb of Title 21 of the United States Code, by individuals who would not otherwise have access to the drug through private insurance or public programs, the number of individuals who will have increased access to the drug represent a significant proportion of the individuals in California who have that rare disease or condition, and the ICOC has made a determination that, in the absence of the waiver, development of the drug will be impeded.
"(B) The grantee commits, in writing, to provide expanded access to a drug under its access plan to a class of patients who would not otherwise receive access to the drug, including working uninsured individuals who do not qualify for any public program or private health plan or policy that provides coverage of the drug, and the ICOC has made a determination, before granting a waiver and based on the number of individuals who will have access to the drug and the likely costs of the drug, that the waiver will provide significant benefits that equal or exceed the benefits that would otherwise accrue to the state through the pricing requirements set forth in subdivision (c).
"(2) The ICOC has conducted a public hearing prior to adopting any waiver pursuant to this subdivision. The ICOC shall provide findings and declarations and documentation to the Legislature substantiating the need for, and benefits of, a waiver adopted pursuant to this subdivision at least 30 days prior to the public hearing and shall post these documents on its Internet Web site at the time of submission to the Legislature and provide notice to the public that these documents have been posted."

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