Progressive senators slam Chamber of Commerce for ‘shadowy campaign’ against march-in rights

May 9, 2024

A trio of progressive senators are demanding to know the reason behind the Chamber of Commerce launching a coalition earlier this year to oppose a proposed rule from the White House that would allow it to use march-in rights to lower drug costs.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Oreg.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote to Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark, asking to know why her organization had formed the “Business Alliance to Stop Innovation Confiscation (BASIC) Coalition” in March.

The coalition’s explicitly stated goal is to “stop the Biden Administration’s attempt to exploit the landmark and bipartisan Bayh-Dole Act as a backdoor method to impose price controls by using ‘march-in’ rights to seize business patents.”

In December, the Biden administration unveiled a proposed framework that would lay out how to enforce its march-in rights provided by the Bayh-Dole Act, allowing the government to issue its own license of drugs developed with taxpayer funding. The Chamber has labeled this proposal a “threat to progress.”

In their letter to Clark Wednesday, the senators called the formation of the coalition a “mistake.”

“This proposal — which has not yet been finalized — is an important step forward. It clarifies that taxpayers have a backstop when drug manufacturers charge extortionate prices for drugs that were developed with public funds,” the lawmakers wrote. “Ultimately, if the administration were to finalize this proposal, it could “have profound implications for access to medicines and drug pricing for patients and consumers.”

“But instead of working to support thousands of your members who stand to benefit from efforts to end drug company profiteering, the Chamber has opened a shadowy campaign — led by retired Judge Paul Michel — to ‘stymie the White House’s drug pricing initiatives,'” they added.

The progressive lawmakers argued the coalition’s agenda went directly against its stated goal of “expand[ing] access to and improv[ing] the affordability of high-quality health care services for all Americans,” and would hurt consumers and small and large businesses.

They asked Clark to answer how the Chamber reached the decision to form the coalition, if any analysis has been conducted on how march-in rights would impact its members and how many of its members would benefit from reduced health care costs.

The senators also wanted to know why they chose Michel to lead the coalition and which Chamber members have donated to the campaign in support of the BASIC coalition.

When reached for comment, a Chamber spokesperson said in a statement, “The Biden Administration’s proposal to seize the intellectual property rights of American companies poses a threat to progress and risks fostering a hostile environment for U.S. innovation and IP rights.”

“That’s why the Chamber is working with entrepreneurs and advocates to protect the private-public partnerships that have helped the U.S. remain the world’s innovation leader,” the spokesperson added.