WASHINGTON, DC — In light of today’s news that Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a groundbreaking bipartisan bill that would outlaw two tactics Big Pharma wields to maintain monopoly pricing power, David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, issued the following statement:
“Drug corporations have run amok — abusing our patent system and leaving Americans bankrupt and sick. Two egregious tactics they use to maintain high prices are patent thickets and product hopping. Drug companies file scores of patents in an effort to thwart generic competition, or they bring a new drug to market with small, inconsequential differences in order to prevent a competitor from entering at a lower price. These tactics block free-market competition and keep drug prices high.
“We wholeheartedly endorse the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act, and we applaud the work of Senators Cornyn and Blumenthal. This bill will speed generic drugs to market without hurting innovation.
“Momentum is building as Republicans and Democrats collaborate to fix our broken system. We look forward to working in support of this legislation, and we hope today’s bill will be included in any upcoming package of reforms.”
Patent thickets: Brand drug companies often file dozens of new patents on old drugs in order to force a generic company to file suit against each of them, delaying a generic competitor from coming to market. Between 2005 and 2015, at least 74 percent of the new drug patents issued were for existing drugs already on the market. The world’s top-selling drug, Humira, raked in $19.9 billion in sales last year — that’s more revenue last year than every NFL team combined.
AbbVie secured 132 patents on Humira.
Those patents are currently blocking a competitor in the U.S. until 2023, which represents a 21-year monopoly for the drug first approved in 2002.
AbbVie doubled the price from about $19,000 per year to $38,000 per year for patients in the U.S.
In response to cheaper competition, the company cut the price in Europe by 80 percent for the exact same drug and is still not losing money.
Product Hopping: Product hopping occurs when a brand name drug manufacturer transfers patients taking its medications from one of its drugs to another drug with small, inconsequential differences in order to extend its patent life and market exclusivity.