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Bush's Drug-Patent Move Makes Generics Hot Topic

The inability of President Bush and Congress to come to terms on such hot-button health care issues as HMO liability and Medicare drug coverage has helped to push another topic to the fore: the availability of generic drugs.

Bush on Oct. 21 proposed a regulation that reduces the amount of time that patents can protect name-brand medications from competition. Suddenly, the issue promises to be the focus of intense debate for the next two months.

It didn't take long for opposing sides to line up, either. At press time, lawyers for major drug companies were predicting that the industry will file a lawsuit against the regulation, while health insurance administrators, the AARP, and the generic drug industry came out foursquare in favor of Bush's change. Meanwhile, some have argued that the move is simply political posturing in an election season.

The proposal, published in the Oct. 24 Federal Register, will undergo 60 days of public comment before a final version is issued.

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