Biden Targets the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is missing in Russia’s prison system, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh reported Monday, after lawyers contacted the two penal colonies where he’s thought to be held and both reported he was not present. Navalny, who is serving a more than 30-year sentence on charges widely viewed as political retribution for his opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, failed to appear by video link for a scheduled court appearance—which Russian authorities blamed on an electrical issue. The Biden administration said it was “deeply concerned” about Navalny’s disappearance, which comes as Putin announced on Friday his intention to seek another term.
  • India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2019 decision to strip the Jammu and Kashmir region of its autonomous status and divide it into two federally administered territories. The decision officially revoked Article 370, which had given special rights to the Muslim-majority state. The ruling, which was rejected by Kashmir’s political leaders, marked a victory for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of elections in the spring of next year. 
  • The Polish parliament officially voted on Monday to elevate former European Council President Donald Tusk to prime minister, ending eight years of European Union-skeptical rule in Warsaw. Tusk, who served as Polish prime minister from 2007 to 2014, was elected to the post after lawmakers shot down a last-ditch effort by the outgoing right-wing Law and Justice Party to form a government. Tusk—whose coalition was victorious in October’s election—will likely attempt to mend Poland’s relationship with the EU.
  • Special counsel Jack Smith on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to decide whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution in Smith’s 2020 election case, seeking to expedite the appeals process so Trump’s trial—originally scheduled for early March—could proceed as planned if Trump is found not to be immune. District Judge Tanya Chutkan decided earlier this month Trump could be prosecuted, but Trump’s lawyers appealed, arguing the Senate acquitted Trump of any wrongdoing in his 2021 impeachment trial and that trying him again would amount to legal double jeopardy. “This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy,” wrote Smith in his filing. “Whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.” Later Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to expedite consideration of Smith’s petition, and ordered Trump to respond to the petition by next Wednesday.
  • The Texas Supreme Court on Monday overturned a ruling by a lower state court that would have allowed a woman to seek an emergency abortion despite strict state laws banning the procedure in the state with very limited exceptions. Kate Cox, who is pregnant with a child diagnosed with Trisomy 18, has now left the state to seek an abortion, according to her representation at the Center for Reproductive Rights. In its ruling, the Texas Supreme Court argued that Cox’s doctors “could not, or at least did not, attest to the court that Ms. Cox’s condition poses the risks the exception requires”—namely a threat to the life of the mother. 
  • California Assemblyman Vince Fong, a Republican, announced Monday he will run for outgoing Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s House seat. In a statement announcing his candidacy, Fong framed his decision to run for office as “an attempt to unite our community in this critical moment in our nation’s history.” Fong’s declaration came hours after Republican State Sen. Shannon Grove said she would not join the race to replace McCarthy, who announced last week that he will retire from Congress at the end of this year.

The Government Marches In

(via Getty Images)
(via Getty Images)

We’ve read a few times now in the comments just how much our TMD readers enjoy a good map. As proponents of using visual aids to help with complex topics, we’d like to start today’s newsletter with a simple diagram explaining drug costs and revenue. The White House announced last Thursday a potential complication to the legend below.

Source: The Health Strategies Consultancy LLC
Source: The Health Strategies Consultancy LLC

The Biden administration published new draft guidelines last Thursday that could allow federal agencies to suspend exclusive patents issued to pharmaceutical companies for medicines developed using government-funded research and offer licenses to other companies to produce and sell the drugs. The proposed rule could provide the government an expansive new tool to lower prices on some drugs, but also risks disincentivizing companies from using government-funded research to develop new pharmaceuticals.

Under previous Democratic and Republican administrations, the law governing such patents was largely understood as a backstop to ensure that the companies the government granted exclusive patents to actually brought the inventions and products to market. But the Biden administration appears poised to try to use the government’s authority—known as “march-in” rights—more expansively as a tool to target high drug prices.

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