Bipartisan group defends 12-year exclusivity for biologic drugs

Some 50 lawmakers from both parties have written to President Obama urging him to keep in place the current rules for approving generic versions of biologic drugs.

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), says the 12-year exclusivity period approved under the healthcare reform law balances "the need for patient access with incentives for innovation."

Reducing the exclusivity period to seven years, as the president urged in his deficit-reduction proposal last month, could lead drugmakers to set up shop in countries with friendlier regulations, the letter says.

Exclusivity is the length of time that a brand-name product can stay on the market without competition from a generic version. Cutting that  period down to seven years could save the federal government $3.5 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, because cheaper generic drugs would make it to market quicker. 

Eshoo's letter, made public Tuesday, was also sent to the members of the new deficit-cutting supercommittee, who are seeking ways to slash the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion or more by Nov. 23.