Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Sky-high drug prices? Senators blame patent abuse

By 37ci3 May21,2024



WASHINGTON — The drug industry’s top lobbying group faced fierce questioning Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. abuse of the patent system It is responsible for keeping prescription drug prices high in the United States.

The patent system is designed to reward innovation by allowing drug manufacturers to market only new drugs for a certain period of time – usually 20 years.

During this time, other companies cannot create generic versions of the drug, severely limiting competition.

On Tuesday, senators across the political spectrum accused drug companies of abusing the system.

“I’m a big believer in our patent system and I believe in the exclusivity afforded to people who discover new life-saving drugs,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “But at the same time, I get angry when I see abuses of the patent system.”

Companies can apply 160 patents for any medication, Cornyn said.

This tactic is called “evergreening”—an industry practice in which a drug manufacturer extends its patent by making minor adjustments to a drug or device used to deliver the drug.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said Novo Nordisk currently has 25 patents on Ozempic, 21 of which relate to the injection pen that delivers the drug, not the drug itself.

Arti Rai, a professor at Duke University Law School, told lawmakers that the practice of modifying a drug or its delivery device is not illegal.

Still, the federal government tried to thwart efforts to prevent generic competition. Late last month, the Federal Trade Commission challenged a list of hundreds of patents it said were designed to prevent low-cost drugs from reaching the market.

Jocelyn Ulrich, vice president of policy and research at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a drug industry trade group, said during the hearing that the group does not support “anti-competitive behavior.”

But the current patent system has appropriate “checks and balances,” Ulrich said. “I think it works.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., responded: “You think it works? Yeah, well, I don’t.”

Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lives on Humalog, a diabetes drug from Eli Lilly. The drug is one of the most expensive drugs covered by Medicare and one of the first to be selected for price negotiations with the federal government.

There’s Eli Lilly Humalog has successfully extended its patent several times Since its approval 20 years ago, it has kept generic versions off the market until recently.

Despite being a decades-old drug, Humalog has a price tag of about $330 per vial in the U.S., up from about $20 per vial when it was approved, Durbin said.

“Many patients are paying inflated prices,” he said. “Too often the prices set by Big Pharma do not reflect scientific progress, but rather the work of skilled lawyers manipulating the patent system.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., told a similar story about inhalers. The active ingredients in them haven’t changed much over the past three decades, but prices remain high because extended patents have limited competition, he said.

“The price Georgians are paying is immense,” Ossoff said.

Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., said of drug companies’ practices to limit competition: “It’s really disgusting. He added that there is news from him components they say they have had to delay or skip medication because it is unavailable.

“The bottom line here is that health care costs in this country are killing people,” Welch said.



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By 37ci3

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