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Cold Warriors Tanked Big Pharma Regulation

May 31, 2019

With prices climbing for lifesaving drugs like insulin, the regulation of Big Pharma is frequently in the news. Historian Dominique A. Tobbell writes that we’ve been having this debate since the 1950s. Back then, Senator Estes Kefauver, a Tennessee Democrat, became worried about the high price of prescription drugs. To him, it looked like there was little competition in the pharmaceutical market. Instead, patent-holders had an effective monopoly on particular drugs, which they used to set prices. Kefauver’s investigation into the issue, starting in 1959, was the first of its kind. Previously, drug legislation had only aimed at regulating safety and marketing claims.After two years of investigative hearings, Kefauver proposed a revision of patent law reducing market exclusivity from seventeen years to three. His bill would also have limited patents to drugs with significantly different structures and better therapeutic benefits than existing ones.