Prescription Drugs

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U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller says pharmaceutical companies are taking unfair advantage of patent laws to squeeze generic drug makers from the market.

Tuesday, Rockefeller introduced a bill he says could change that, and save consumers billions of dollars over the next generation.

Under current law, drug makers receive 20 years of exclusive manufacturing rights when they get a patent from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Rockefeller's bill would leave that provision unchanged.

But it would block pharmaceutical businesses from getting automatic 30-month extensions if they file to extend patents or sue generic competitors for infringement.

Generic drugs typically cost 25 percent less than brand-name drugs when they first enter the market and 60 percent less after two years.

Greg Glover of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says the existing patent system shouldn't be changed.

He says it provides drug companies incentive to spend money on research, spurring innovation and new drug creation.