THE REFILL: Latest Dosage of Rx Patent Abuse


  • With rising prescription drug prices at top of mind for many Americans, it’s continuing to receive attention on the campaign trail.  This week former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg released a new drug pricing plan that would tackle one of the biggest problems by reforming our nation’s broken patent system. Bloomberg’s plan limits the number of patents available to new brand-name drug and biological applications to just one that lasts 20 years in order to make way for more affordable medications and treatments.   
  • CAPA weighed-in on this proposal saying: 
    • “We are encouraged to see real solutions presented on the presidential campaign trail that focus on increasing access and affordability for patients, not the profiteering of big brand name pharmaceutical companies. We commend Mayor Bloomberg for taking initiative to address the issue of patent abuse by brand-name drug companies through a proposal that reduces patent thickets while bolstering competition and ensuring that there is a defined period of market exclusivity to drive biomedical innovation.”— Matthew Lane, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Patent Abuse
  • New reporting from the Los Angeles Times highlights the growing frustration and pain many Americans feel over rising prescription drug prices. According the Times, voters are consistently placing high prescription drug prices as their top healthcare concern.
    • “The debate over creating a single government health plan for all Americans may be dominating the Democratic presidential campaign, but most voters are focused on a more basic pocketbook issue: prescription drug prices. In poll after poll, the high cost of medications is at or near the top of voters’ healthcare concerns, far outpacing interest in moving all or some people into Medicare-like coverage.”
  • In 2019, Big Pharma spent a record 28.9 million on lobbying according to recently filed federal lobbying disclosures. This unprecedented spending comes in response to the budding bipartisan consensus that patent reform is a necessary piece of lowering prescription drug prices.
    • “With no competition, AbbVie has a free hand to boost prices in the United States for another three years. That potentially allows it to make up for slower sales in Europe, where generic competition is taking a bite out of Humira sales.”


The Hill: PhRMA Spent Record-High $29 Million On Lobbying In 2019
Jessie Hellman

  • The powerful trade group representing the prescription drug industry spent a record-high $29 million lobbying Congress in 2019, according to disclosure reports released Tuesday.  That is a 5 percent increase over what the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent in 2018, marking the most it has spent on lobbying in a single year.  Despite anger from lawmakers and the Trump administration over rising prescription drug costs, the industry ended 2019 mostly unscathed as Congress failed to pass any legislation to lower prices for consumers.

STAT News: Want To Know How Contentious Drug Pricing Is In Washington? Check The Receipts
Nicholas Florko

  • Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and the 31 other major drug makers that belong to the trade group PhRMA together spent more than $120 million lobbying Congress in 2019, according to recently released federal disclosures. That helped pay for an army of over 450 lobbyists who helped the drug makers and their trade group vehemently oppose the sweeping proposals lawmakers and the Trump administration put forth in their efforts to lower prescription drug prices. PhRMA also broke its all-time annual lobbying record this year. It spent $28.9 million in 2019, surpassing its previous record of $27.5 million, set last year.

Bloomberg: The “Pharma Bro” Is An Easy Target, But He’s The Wrong One.
Joe Nocera

  • When I asked Rutgers University law professor Michael Carrier why New York and the FTC weren’t going after these bigger — and, frankly, worthier — targets, he made a plausible case that the Daraprim situation was unique. Carrier co-wrote a paper in 2018 that laid out the way antitrust law could be used against Vyera and Shkreli — a paper that the state and the commission appear to have used as a blueprint…When I asked him why that was any different from, say, Humira, Carrier responded with one word: patents. AbbVie has protected Humira’s monopoly by surrounding the drug with dozens of add-on patents, a practice called “evergreening.” Although the ordinary person might view those patents as being solely intended to maintain the drug’s monopoly, courts tend to give great weight to patent protection. To make an antitrust case against Humira, the authorities would have to argue that its add-on patents are frivolous, and that’s not a winning argument, even if it’s true.

STAT News: It’s The Insulin, Stupid: How Drug Pricing’s Simplest Case Study Became A Top Issue For 2020 Democrats
Lev Facher

  • Presidential candidates can’t stop talking about insulin. At a campaign stop here on Sunday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar retold the now-familiar story of Alec Smith, whose highly publicized death from insulin rationing in 2017 sparked nationwide outrage. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has vowed to lower the drug’s price on her first day in office, lambasted Eli Lilly, one of just three U.S. insulin manufacturers, at an Iowa rally the day before. And since July, when Sen. Bernie Sanders joined a highly publicized “insulin caravan” seeking cheaper prices in Canada, he has flooded this state with television ads that picture him brandishing an insulin vial in outrage.