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20 September 2022AmericasStaff Writer

‘Pervasive abuse’ of patent system at root of drug pricing crisis: I-MAK

Report found that four times as many patents are granted on the top ten drugs in the US, compared to Europe | Non-profit says that the US’ patent system is ‘broken’.

Drug companies are “gaming a broken drug patent system” in the US, which is stifling competition and preventing patients from accessing affordable generic alternatives, according to non-profit group the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK).

I-MAK’s report—“The Overpatented, Overpriced: 2022 report”—analysed the ten top selling drugs in the US and found that, combined, there were 744 granted patents on the drugs.

According to I-MAK, the report reveals that “pervasive abuse of the US drug patent system is at the root of the drug pricing crisis”.

“As the nation's drug spending is poised to reach nearly a trillion dollars by 2030, the study highlights excessive patenting practices on blockbuster drugs,” said the report.

According to the report, on average, there are 74 granted patents on each of the US’s top ten selling drugs. On average, four times as many patents are granted on the top ten drugs in the US compared to Europe.

It added that drugmakers filed more than 140 patent applications on average per top ten drug, with two-thirds of these applications being filed after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug to be on the market. This, said I-MAK, indicates that drugmakers are “attempting to prolong the existing exclusivity for as long as possible”.

Lower-cost generic and biosimilar versions of three top selling drugs—Abbvie’s Humira, BMS’ and Pfizer’s Eliquis, and Amgen’s Enbrel - launched in Europe an average of 7.7 years earlier than their expected US entry, said the report.

“During this time, without generic or biosimilar competition Americans will spend an estimated $167 billion on branded versions of just these three drugs. To date, these drugs still do not have generic or biosimilar competition in the US,” it explained.

The report also noted that the primary patents on seven out of 10 of America's top selling drugs are set to expire this decade. This, according to I-MAK, will incentivise drug companies to prepare for these expirations by filing for or securing hundreds of patents (patent thickets).

Tahir Amin, co-founder and co-executive director at I-MAK, said: “We cannot get to the root of the drug pricing crisis without fixing America's broken patent system. When drug companies are given legal cover to block competition at the expense of American lives, it's time to sound the alarm.

“There is growing acknowledgment that these manipulative, anti-competitive tactics are unfair and need correction. It is time to reclaim the patent system: not as a vehicle for unprecedented profits, but as an engine for discoveries that are truly unprecedented.”

Back in 2018, LSIPR  interviewed Amin to find out more about the non-profits' fight against what it sees as invalid pharmaceutical patents.

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19 October 2018   Non-profit organisation I-MAK is waging a global challenge against what it sees as invalid pharmaceutical patents, with access to life-saving drugs its main priority. LSIPR speaks to co-founder Tahir Amin to find out more.
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19 October 2018   Non-profit organisation I-MAK is waging a global challenge against what it sees as invalid pharmaceutical patents, with access to life-saving drugs its main priority. LSIPR speaks to co-founder Tahir Amin to find out more.
Americas
2 August 2018   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.

More on this story

Americas
19 October 2018   Non-profit organisation I-MAK is waging a global challenge against what it sees as invalid pharmaceutical patents, with access to life-saving drugs its main priority. LSIPR speaks to co-founder Tahir Amin to find out more.
Americas
2 August 2018   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.