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Flickr Creative Commons

If policymakers offer a short-term extension of monopoly pricing for old drugs to treat rare diseases, drug companies could reap a lot of profits quickly at the expense of the public, according to a new study by Harvard physicians in the journal Health Affairs.

What they found: Researchers looked at 13 drugs, like AbbVie's blockbuster Humira, that later gained supplemental approval as "orphan drugs" for people with rare diseases. They modeled what the financial returns would look like with a six-month extension of monopoly pricing in proposed federal legislation. The median net returns would have surpassed $82 million.

The money quote: "The incentives offered under the [legislation] would serve as windfalls to manufacturers that would have sought approval of their drugs for relevant rare disease populations even without those incentives." Instead, researchers said policymakers should consider just covering the cost of clinical trials or offering tax credits in the place of the full-blown market exclusivity extension.

Perfect timing: The study coincides with a major Kaiser Health News investigation that found drug companies routinely repurpose blockbuster drugs as orphan medicines to milk more sales and profits from new market exclusivity.

Go deeper

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

The walls close in on Trump

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.