Zack Struver's blog

Patients, Members of Congress Ask Chilean Government to Issue Compulsory Licenses on Prostate Cancer and HCV Drug Patents

21 MARCH 2017
PRESS ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Zack Struver, zack.struver@keionline.org, +1 (202) 332-2670 (office) / +1 (914) 582-1428 (cell)
Luis Villarroel, info@innovarte.cl, +56 9 9827 9673

Santiago, Chile — Members of the Chilean Congress and a group of 6 patients visited the Chilean Ministry of Health yesterday to ask that the government use its authority under Chilean law to end patent monopolies on the prostate cancer drug enzalutamide (U.S. brand name Xtandi) and on sofosbuvir-based combination drugs for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The patients and members submitted a petition that outlined the legal authority and public policy rationale for the grant of compulsory licenses on the patents for the drugs described in the petition. Those compulsory licenses would allow prescription drug manufacturers to produce affordable generic versions of the drugs, subject to a reasonable royalty.

KEI Testifies in Maryland on Drug R&D Cost Transparency Bill (HB666/SB437)

James Love and Andrew Goldman represented KEI on March 16, 2017, in a working group meeting of a subcommittee of the Maryland General Assembly House of Delegates Health & Government Operations Committee, where they testified on HB666/SB437, a bill that would establish transparency of R&D costs for prescription drugs sold in Maryland.

Vincent DeMarco of at Health Care for All! and Dr. Reshma Ramachandran of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also testified at the hearing.

HHS Office of Inspector General Declines to Investigate Failure to Disclose Federal Funding in Ionis Pharmaceuticals' Spinraza

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) informed KEI that it would not move forward with an investigation into whether Isis Pharmaceuticals, now known as Ionis Pharmaceuticals, failed to report federal funding in patents on Spinraza.

In a letter dated March 13, 2017, Matthew Charette, the Special Agent in Charge of the Investigations Branch of OIG, explained that OIG counsel believes that OIG has limited authority, and that the obligation to "monitor[] invention reporting and remedy[] noncompliance" "rests with NIH's Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration (OPERA)."

On January 18, 2017, KEI submitted a 22-page letter to OIG containing evidence that the patents on Spinraza benefited from federal grants. KEI did not just ask OIG to investigate Isis' alleged failure to report this funding, in violation of the Bayh-Dole Act and federal regulations, but also urged the OIG "to investigate whether the National Institutes of Health failed to conduct proper oversight in administering its grants" and to "recommend appropriate action to remedy the situation in line with the statute and prior decisions with regard to failure to disclose a subject invention."

2017 R&D Cost Transparency Proposals in the United States

On March 9, 2017, KEI was scheduled to testify before the Maryland House Committee on Health on HB 666, a bill that would require an annual report on R&D costs from drug companies that sell high-priced medicines in the state of Maryland.

In advance of the hearing, I prepared a note that summarizes provisions in both transparency and pharmaceutical price gouging legislation that would require the disclosure of the costs associated with research and development. This note is a less detailed version of this 2016 summary.

This year, so far, legislators in 13 states have introduced 21 bills that would require some degree of transparency.

map of states with transparency bills

KEI Submission to Oregon Senate on R&D Cost Transparency Provisions in SB 793

Today, KEI submitted written testimony on SB 793 — a bill that is designed to allow the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to investigate price increases for prescription drugs — in advance of a hearing before the Oregon Senate Committee on Health Care at 1:00 P.M. (PST) on March 9, 2017.

Notes on 2017 Special 301 Submissions

Wednesday, March 8, 2017, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will hold the first Special 301 Hearing of the Trump administration. This year, USTR received 63 submissions in advance fo the hearing from governments, civil society organizations, and industry groups.

This blog post pulls out interesting selections from the various submissions, and includes as attachments the submissions of selected organizations.

CDC FOIA shows US, WHO opposed request to discuss UNSG's High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines Report at EB

Email records and memoranda released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in response to a Knowledge Ecology International Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States government opposed including India's proposed agenda item on the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines for discussion at the 140th WHO Executive Board meeting.

The full set of documents, which was released to KEI without redaction, are available here:

Klobuchar Drug Importation Amendment Sees Votes Crossing the Aisle

At 11:06 P.M. on January 11, 2017, during the so-called “Vote-A-Rama”, the Senate considered an amendment put forward by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the parallel importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

Front page New York Times story explores Kite Pharma's profitable relationship with NIH regarding expensive cancer drug

Matt Richtel and Andrew Pollack explore the complex policy issues involved with the pricing of products based on taxpayer-funded inventions and research in a front page New York Times story published today.

Kite Pharma Press Releases & News Stories Related to Relationship with National Cancer Institute

Kite Pharma is a California-based biopharmaceutical company working on various types of cell therapies for the treatment of cancer, in a bid to become the first pharmaceutical firm to gain successful FDA approval for this new class of cancer treatment.

Kite closely collaborates with the National Cancer Institute, which conducted significant early research into the forms of cell therapies that Kite is seeking to commercialize. NCI conducts clinical trials under Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with Kite, and additionally has granted exclusive licenses on over a dozen patents to Kite on the same technologies.

Kite Pharma Uses CRADAs to Conduct Important Clinical Research on New Cancer Treatments

Kite Pharma, Inc., which is racing Juno Therapeutics and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to successfully bring the first T-cell receptor (TCR) therapy to market, relies heavily on government support in the course of its research and development.

As noted previously by KEI, in various comments to the National Institutes of Health, the NIH rarely discloses detailed information on its connections with industry, raising concerns about how the NIH licenses out taxpayer-funded technologies without regard for future prices or access for U.S. residents.

For a selected bibliography of news stories on Kite's relationship with the National Cancer Institute, see here: http://keionline.org/node/2644.

T-cell receptor therapy is the latest breakthrough in cancer treatment, and involves modifying a patient's own cells to better track and destroy cancer proteins, and then reintroducing them into the body. (The NIH has a concise description for non-scientists here.)

Dr. Steven Rosenberg
Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg is the Principal Investigator for the National Cancer Institute on Kite's 2012 CRADA. Dr. Rosenberg mentored Kite CEO and co-Founder Dr. Arie Belldegrun, and is also listed as a "Special Advisor" to Kite on their website. | Partnership for Public Service / Aaron Clamage

According to Kite’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Kite has secured three Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In exchange for quarterly cash payments, the NCI conducts clinical trials and laboratory work on many of its own patented technologies, with the understanding that Kite will have the rights to commercialize any successful products developed through the CRADA.

56 NGOs ask US Government enable export of low cost generic versions Xtandi to developing countries

17 OCTOBER 2016

CONTACT: Zack Struver, zack.struver@keionline.org, +1-202-332-2670, or Paul Davis, pdavis@keionline.org, +1-202-332-2670

Note: Letter from Biolyse to HHS here: http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/28-sept-2016-biolyse-to-hhs-letter.pdf
Letter from NGOs to HHS here: http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/17-oct-2016-civil-society-letter-xtandi.pdf

Washington, DC — Today, over 50 patient, senior citizen, global health, development, social justice, and faith groups urged the United States Government to use its rights in a federally funded patented invention, and accept the request by a Canadian generic drug manufacturer (Biolyse Pharma) to enter into an agreement to manufacture and export an affordable version of the taxpayer-funded prostate cancer drug enzalutamide to South Africa and other countries with low per-capita incomes relative to the United States.

500+ Pages of Documents on NFL Attempts to Influence NIH Funding of Concussion Studies

Knowledge Ecology International recently obtained extensive email correspondence between officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), and the National Football League (NFL), which shed light on accusations of NFL attempts to control the NIH research agenda related to repeat concussion injuries in football players.

The records, which we received through FOIA, are available here:

NIH Waivers for U.S. Manufacturing Requirements for Federally-Funded Drugs

The National Institutes of Health, from 2011 through May of 2015, appears to have granted all requests for waivers of a requirement under federal law that patent holders who benefit from U.S. taxpayer-funding ensure that their patented inventions are manufactured in the United States.

The Bayh-Dole Act imposes various requirements on the grant of exclusive licenses by the patent holders of federally-funded inventions. In particular, the act generally requires that exclusive licensees “substantially” manufacture the invention in the United States.

The Act, however, also allows for the patent holder to obtain a waiver on the U.S. manufacturing requirement from the Federal agency that provided for the funding of the invention. According to a FOIA response recently obtained by Knowledge Ecology International, the NIH seems to grant every manufacturing waiver request that comes its way.

Summary of Report of United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines

On September 14, 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines released its report, in which they had a mandate to “review and assess proposals and recommend solutions for remedying the policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies.”[1]

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