Howard Dean Is Right - Let's Protect Innovation in Health Care Reform

I wanted to let you know about an important debate that's going on around health care reform that's been a bit under-the-radar. It's the issue of "biosimilars," which are medicines that are developed to mimic complex biologic drugs that treat diseases like cancer.

Howard Dean wrote an op-ed about the issue in The Hill today that lays out the case for an approach that strikes a balance -- it ensures fair prices and competition while also allowing the companies that develop breakthrough treatments and cures to earn back the money they risk on R&D so they can invest it in future cures.

A commonsense and fair approach, similar to the process and timeline currently in place for generic versions of chemical-based medicines, would allow the original developer of the biologic to protect the proprietary data used to develop the medicine for at least 12 years. A shorter exclusivity period would prematurely rob biotech innovators of their intellectual property and destroy incentives to develop new cures. Most firms would be unable to recoup their investments in new medicines, which ordinarily top $1 billion and involve 15 years of research and development. If we discourage investment, we jeopardize the development of the next generation of breakthrough medicines and cures.

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Health care reform has been a passion of Howard's since long before I met him in his first campaign for governor of Vermont, and before we fought hand in hand in 2003 to make health care for all Americans a national issue.

We fought to put health care for every American front and center. I know more than most the importance of making treatments and cures affordable and accessible to everyone who needs them. I also know how important it is to continue the work that will innovate better treatments and cures for people who continue to suffer from devastating and chronic diseases.

So, when Howard lays out a case for a fair and balanced approach on this issue have to listen. He's a doctor and a life-long advocate for health care reform -- he knows what he's talking about.

And as partisan squabbling threatens to turn this debate into left vs. right, Howard's op-ed is a reminder of what this is all really about -- providing quality care to everyone and making sure we continue to develop future cures.

I know I'm grateful for those who are out there working every day on a cure for diabetes -- a disease I have struggled with for years. And I'm not alone. There are millions of people who suffer from other debilitating diseases who hope for cures. I hope members of Congress will take the approach Howard Dean advocates. Howard believes that biotechnology innovators need at least 12 years to make treatments affordable and accessible and make sure the drive for better treatments and new cures continues.

I contacted my members of Congress and told them exactly that. I hope you'll read the rest of Howard's op-ed and show your support by contacting your representatives today.


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