Home>National>Opinion: Preserving Availability of Generic Drugs Offers Help to Americans Worried About Costs of Care 

Former Edison Mayor Jun Choi

Opinion: Preserving Availability of Generic Drugs Offers Help to Americans Worried About Costs of Care 

By David Wildstein, April 13 2021 12:37 pm


More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare costs remain a top-of-mind concern for struggling families. The past year took an immense toll as the economy sputtered and unemployment surged. Now, even as we begin recovering, roughly two-thirds of Americans are still afraid that they won’t be able to afford the care they need this year, and that uncertainty is bound to linger until vaccines are more broadly available.
It’s because of this that we should be working at all levels to protect the things that make medical care and medications more affordable. Helping to keep drug prices low will go a long way towards empowering American families to feel more confident in their ability to afford the care they need, and it will help with our long-term recovery as a result.
Preserving the availability of generic drugs will be a major piece in achieving that end. The generics industry helps to bring important, and often lifesaving, medication to patients at a lower cost, and it is a key factor in making the cost of care more affordable. In fact, between 2015 and 2017, first generics – which introduce competition to the more expensive brand-name drugs – helped to reduce the price of medications by nearly 40 percent and by more than half in the first year they were on the market. 
The impact of the generics industry is particularly potent here in New Jersey, as some of the biggest generic drug manufacturers have made our state the hub of their activities in the United States. These companies are significant job creators across the state and contribute to immense healthcare savings. In 2019 alone, New Jersey saved around $9.6 billion through the availability of generic drugs. 
The leadership of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, notably Representative Frank Pallone, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, has led to a number of positive developments in recent years in the fight to increase pharmaceutical competition and lower prescription drugs. The creation of the Competitive Generics Therapy (CGT) pathway has led to the FDA approval of 80 new generic medicines since 2018. Enactment of the CREATES Act has removed barriers to competition for generics used to treat hypertension, seizures and help patients recovering from certain surgeries.
The Biden Administration and Congress will soon take up an effort to build on this progress and consider reforms to the prescription drug market. Preserving the ability of generic manufacturers to challenge brand-name drug patents is critical because brand-name drug patents stand between monopoly pricing and free market competition. Patients benefit significantly through lower costs and increased access to treatments with FDA approval of first generics. And central to making this possible is a 180-day incentive for generic developers to file applications quickly and to challenge the brand-name drug patents.
That 180-day window provides an important incentive for pharmaceutical competition and paves the way toward more affordable medications.
The strength of the incentive is clear when looking at just how many new generic medications have been brought to market under this system. In the past several years, hundreds of first generics – those protected by the 180-day window and those for which there was no previously approved alternative – have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Keeping healthcare affordable must be a priority for all elected officials as the nation works to pull itself out of this pandemic. That will only be possible, however, so long as generic medication options remain a viable choice for people who simply cannot afford to buy the higher-priced brand name drugs. Preserving the tools available to generic manufacturers to challenge brand-name patents fosters competition and is the best way to make sure that more patient treatment options will remain in the months and years ahead.

Jun Choi is a former mayor of Edison.  He is the CEO of Menlo Realty Ventures and the co-chair of the Regional Plan Committee for New Jersey. 

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