Governors rush to defense of bipartisan biologics deal

The pundits are working overtime this morning trying to assess the structural damage that Massachusetts voters inflicted on the healthcare reform bill yesterday. Some say the legislation has been fatally wounded now that the Republicans have garnered a 41st vote and will quickly expire; some see Sen. Olympia Snowe from Maine stepping in and striking a last-minute deal for her vote. So let's just say the vote is still out.

Part of that bill, of course, includes language providing biologics with 12 years of data exclusivity. We learned late last week that President Obama had objected to the lengthy period of protection, preferring to move closer to Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) quest to limit exclusivity to five years. And now The Hill writes that a group of governors from hub states, including Deval Patrick from Massachusetts and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, are rushing to the defense of the biologics provision. Obama is "ignoring one of the few substantive bipartisan amendments approved during committee consideration of healthcare reform," writes the Congressional pub. "In addition, such a move would run afoul of an agreement he struck with drug makers on the reform effort."

At this point, the behind-the-scenes struggle over the fate of biologics could quickly become a moot point if the Democratic focus in Congress shifts to passing a bill--any bill--quickly. Obama may well decide to stick with a biologics pact that drew widespread bipartisan support at a time he's going to need every vote he can muster.

- here's the story from The Hill
- The Washington Post
reports on the Democrats' scramble