The HHS Secretary, Joe Biden, has the authority to lower drug prices. He Isn’t Making Use Of It.


The HHS Secretary, Joe Biden, has the authority to lower drug prices. He Isn’t Making Use Of It.

Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, promised to address out-of-control pharmaceutical pricing. In November 2020, he claimed, “I’m going to cut prescription medicines by 60%, and that’s the truth.” However, there is a disconnect between his campaign pledges and his team’s actions—or inaction. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, for example, has yet to use his administrative power to restrict medication pricing in the way that he advocated for as a member of Congress and as Attorney General of California.

Much of the ongoing political debate over decreasing the country’s expensive medication prices has centered on whether Congress will allow Medicare to utilize its purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription prices. However, Becerra’s office has the authority to license patented pharmaceutical items developed with federal funds in the meantime. In July, lawmakers wrote to Becerra’s office, requesting that the secretary look into using these “march-in” rights to limit prescription pricing.

Make use of “every available tool”

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 created the right to march-in. They give federal agencies the authority to revoke exclusive patent rights for products developed with government funds in certain circumstances, such as when “action is necessary because the contractor or assignee has not taken, or is not expected to take, effective steps to achieve practical application of the subject invention in such field of use within a reasonable time,” or when “action is necessary to alleviate health or safety needs that are not reasonably met.” In the 40 years after the statute was written, the federal government has never exercised those rights.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as well as Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, wrote a letter in July stating that federal money has helped “create hundreds of medications, some of which are protected by critical patents that could be susceptible to march-in rights.”

“When pharmaceuticals encounter limited competition or market practices fail to ensure an affordable price, HHS should consider employing march-in rights to ensure that prescription drugs invented with public monies are appropriately priced and inexpensive,” the letter stated.

The demand is in line with previous statements made by Becerra. Becerra, then California’s Attorney General, was elected just over a year ago. This is a condensed version of the information.


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