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In a rebuke to Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report earlier this month saying the federal government should not use so-called march-in rights, which involve reclaiming patents, as a tool to address high prices for prescription medicines.

Under federal law, a government agency that funds private research — such as the National Institute of Health — can require a drug maker to license its patent to another party in order to “alleviate health and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied.” An agency can also do so when the benefits of a product, such as a medicine, are not available on “reasonable terms.”


The notion has gained traction over the last three years in response to the national debate about high drug costs and arguments that medicines invented with taxpayer dollars should be affordable to Americans. But the Commerce Department argued the law did not intend march-in rights to be used as a “price control” and cited industry concerns over the durability of licensing rights.

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