BIO 2007: Generic legislation threatens biotech

This year's annual meeting of BIO has fastened on new legislation brewing for generic biotech drugs as a key theme. In open sessions this morning, op-ed pieces and in interviews with the local press, BIO has been hammering away at every turn at the need to put as much distance between the drug development industry and the generic drug makers who have been making life so hard for so many Big Pharma companies. BIO CEO Jim Greenwood has been pushing a 14-year period of data exclusivity for biotech. And the discussion this morning also focused on defusing the "follow-on biologic" bomb. Pharma, of course, has had to face the same threat to its revenue. The argument at BIO is that opening the door to follow-ons would threaten their revenue and cut investments in the field, blunting the science and so on. Ironically, it was the development of generic legislation that has led to today's explosion of deals between pharma and biotech. That's not likely to be of much comfort to the biotech industry that's turned out in such big numbers in Boston. With lawmakers concentrating so much energy on finding ways to unlock the IP door that protects valuable products, that's not hard to understand. But as long as biotech companies are turning out products that are driving up the cost of new therapies, generic legislation becomes one of the few options available for lowering costs. - John Carroll