Good things are happening! The White House is set to exercise its authority to cut drug prices, Google loses a landmark antitrust trial, lawmakers take on uber-rich private universities’ tax breaks, the UAW sees an early organizing win in Tennessee, and Massachusetts puts forward a landmark plan to phase out natural gas.

White House Takes On Pharma Patents

The White House plans to exercise its authority to lower the price of costly medications that were developed with public funding — a potentially powerful new tool in the battle against sky-high medication prices.

The Biden administration announced last week that it had concluded, after a monthslong review, that it had the authority to break the patents of drugs developed with public funding if their cost was too high. This authority — dubbed “march-in rights” — has never been used, and is likely to encounter major pushback from Big Pharma.

Take, for instance, the case of the drug Xtandi, which is used to treat prostate cancer. The drug was developed at the public University of California, Los Angeles, using federal funding from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army. The university then licensed the drug to a pharmaceutical company called Medivation, which is now owned by Pfizer, and the Japanese pharmaceutical behemoth Astellas. Pfizer and Astellas have made billions selling the drug worldwide. In the U.S., Xtandi costs on average $190,000 a year, more than five times higher than in Canada and Japan.

The Bayh-Dole Act, which was passed more than 30 years ago, allows the federal government to use march-in rights to intervene if drugs developed with public money are not being made accessible to the public. Despite Xtandi being more or less a perfect case for the use of this authority — a cancer drug developed with public money being sold at an egregious premium — the Biden administration declined to use march-in rights in March to seize the patent and allow a generic competitor to enter the market, forcing down the drug’s cost.