Romney, Colleagues Oppose Biden Proposal to Illegally Seize Drug Patents

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today joined HELP Ranking Member Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and 15 Republican colleagues in sending a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Monica Bertagnolli, M.D. raising serious concerns with the Biden Administration’s proposal that attempts to allow agencies to seize drug patents from companies under the Bayh-Dole Act if the Administration views that the price the company is charging is too high. The senators expressed concerns that if an agency illegally uses march-in rights to influence drug costs, it will severely hamper health care innovation and deny millions of Americans future lifesaving cures and treatments.

“A short-sighted decision to exercise march-in rights would work against your stated goal and jeopardize patient access by discouraging individuals from partnering with NIH to develop new cures and treatments,” wrote the senators. “Not only will this hurt patients, but it will also diminish the return the public gets on the investments Congress makes in NIH each year – something we should all seek to optimize.”

“We share the bipartisan goal of wanting to lower drug prices for American patients and families. But using march-in rights to address drug prices would do more harm than good,” continued the senators. “Agencies, including NIH, should not abuse their authorities to illegally seize intellectual property, and in the process jeopardize the valuable public-private partnerships that make our biomedical research enterprise the best in the world.”

Joining Romney and Cassidy in sending the letter were Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Budd (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), James Lankford (R-OK), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Tom Cotton (R-AR).


The authors of the Bayh-Dole Act, former U.S. Senators Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Bob Dole (R-KS), made clear that the legislation “did not intend that government set prices on resulting products. The law makes no reference to a reasonable price that should be dictated by the government.” In addition to the congressional intent of the Bayh-Doyle Act, past Republican and Democratic presidential administrations have repeatedly affirmed that agencies lack the authority to use Bayh-Dole to seize patents in response to commercial drug costs. 

Additionally, the use of march-in rights based on drug prices could have drastic impacts on the development of new cures and treatments. In response to the Biden proposal, the nonpartisan Bayh-Dole Coalition stated that the framework “would discourage critical public-private partnerships and prevent thousands of transformational discoveries from reaching consumers.” America’s universities and other research institutions, where the vast majority of NIH-funded research takes place, have previously denounced the use of march-in rights as an “ineffective mechanism to reduce drug prices” that will “significantly undermine university innovation.” 

The full text of the letter can be found here.