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2 August 2018Americas

Patent abuse driving high drug prices, non-profit claims

Aggressive and exploitative patenting strategies are enabling drug makers to regularly increase prices in the US and extend monopolies, according to a new report from non-profit group the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge (I-MAK).

Published today, August 2, “ Overpatented, Overpriced: How Excessive Pharmaceutical Patenting is Extending Monopolies and Driving up Drug Prices” claims that the 12 highest-grossing drugs in the US average 38 years of prospective patent protection—nearly double the 20 mandated under US patent law.

“Today, drug makers are filing dozens or even hundreds of patents, resulting in nearly double the length of protection, blocking competition and keeping cheaper versions of medicines off the market.

“This abusive practice, known as ‘evergreening’, or what drug makers market as incremental innovation and improvements, sits at the heart of the drug price crisis in the US,” the report added.

I-MAK said that since 2012, the prices on these 12 drugs have increased by an average of 68%, with only one product’s fees dropping.

“The trend of drug makers extending patent monopolies without any meaningful new science or invention is raising drug prices and exacting a heavy toll on American payers and households,” said Tahir Amin, co-founder and co-executive director at I-MAK.

I-MAK added that more than half of the top 12 drugs in America have more than 100 prospective patents per drug.

The average number of patent applications for the 12 drugs was 125, while there were 71 granted patents per drug.

The report claimed that AbbVie, which markets Humira ($18 billion in global sales in 2017), has 247 patent applications for the drug.

Roche/Genentech first filed patents for cancer drug Herceptin in 1985, said the report. It allegedly has patent applications pending that could extend exclusivity until 2033—a “48-year potential monopoly span”.

Priti Krishtel, co-founder and co-executive director at I-MAK, added: “Unfortunately, policy makers have not yet put enough effort into accelerating generic competition, or at [a] minimum ensuring that drug makers do not extend monopolies beyond the 20 years intended under US patent law.”

AbbVie and Roche/Genentech have been contacted for comment.

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