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Hill Fight Erupts Over GOP’s Proposed Roll-Back of Tax Credit for ‘Orphan’ Disease Drugs

Washington, DC, November 21, 2017 — Peter Sullivan reports in The Hill that Republicans are seeking to roll back a tax credit for drugs that treat rare diseases, alarming patient groups who fear the move would slow the development of new treatments.

The so-called orphan drug tax credit would be repealed in the tax-reform bill that passed the House last week. Patient groups are lobbying to preserve the credit, as are some drug companies.

The credit, first enacted in 1983, is intended to spur the development treatments for rare, or “orphan,” diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people.

Patient groups fear that without the tax credit for 50 percent of the costs of research and testing, drug companies will cut back on developing drugs for rare diseases and focus on more common ailments.

“The Orphan Drug Tax Credit gives hope to the nearly 95 percent of individuals with rare diseases without a treatment that one day they too will have a treatment, or even cure,” more than 200 patient groups wrote in a letter to congressional leadership this month. “We cannot afford to move backwards.”

If the credit is rolled back, “we think we’re going to see a slowdown in the number of approved therapies,” said Peter Saltonstall, president of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, which is leading the charge to keep the tax credit.

The group points to a study it commissioned from Ernst and Young in 2015 that found that without the credit, 33 percent fewer orphan drugs would have been developed over the last 30 years.

Eliminating the tax credit would save the government a projected $54 billion over the next decade. Congressional Republicans are using that revenue to help pay for tax cuts.

A spokesperson for Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee argued that the corporate tax cuts in the legislation would allow drug companies to invest more in research.

For Sullivan’s full story, click here.