THE REFILL: Latest Dosage of Rx Patent Abuse

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • In case you missed it, Alex Moss with the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted a must-read rebuke of Sen. Coons’ STRONGER Patents Act. Moss’ piece details how this legislation would gut the inter partes review process – an internal process available to the Patent and Trademark Office that saves time and considerable costs when a party wishes to bring a case for invalidating patents – and, essentially, make bad patents even harder to invalidate. The legislation is a boost to Big Pharma’s plans to further manipulate the patent system. The STRONGER Patents Act will be the subject of a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, September 11.
  • STAT News reported last week that Big Pharma has been supporting influential members of Congress with significant campaign donations. Among the beneficiaries of these donations are Senators Coons and Tillis – both of whom have sponsored legislation that would open the patent system up for even more abuse from Pharma that it’s currently experiencing.
  • Last week, Gallup released their annual study of Americans’ view of major U.S. industries. It should come as no surprise that Big Pharma is the most poorly regarded industry in the country with Americans being “more than twice as likely to rate the pharmaceutical industry negatively as positively.” Out of more than two dozen industries, Big Pharma is by far the most disliked. In fact, “Americans’ net ratings for the pharmaceutical industry have never been lower since Gallup first polled on industries in 2001.” This report echoes the growing chorus of support for Congress to end Big Pharma’s abuse of the patent system.
  • Finally this weekend, Mytheos Holt with the Institute for Liberty shared an important critique of Sen. Coons and Tillis’ legislation to overturn Supreme Court precedent in favor of Big Pharma. Holt writes that “crony capitalism masked in the guise of legal reform, and a boon to some of the least popular, and least public-spirited industries in the country.”
     

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE READING

BIG PHARMA’S GAME OF PATENTS

STAT News: As Congress Considers Lowering Drug Costs, Pharma Ceos Target Key Senators With Campaign Cash
Lev Facher
“The Federal Election Commission disclosures for two CEOs — Albert Bourla of Pfizer (PFE) and Olivier Brandicourt, who retired from Sanofi (SNY) this week — were virtually identical. Each contributed $10,000 to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), $5,000 to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and gave in similar increments to Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). Cornyn sits on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which this year questioned a panel of seven drug industry executives including both Bourla and Brandicourt. Tillis holds a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which wields control over intellectual property law. Cornyn and an affiliated PAC raked in $50,600 from the CEOs, including $10,000 each from Bradway and Richard Pops, the CEO of the Massachusetts drug maker Alkermes.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation: The STRONGER Patents Act Would Make Bad Patents Stronger Than Ever
Alex Moss
“The STRONGER Act of 2019 contains numerous provisions aimed at killing inter partes review proceedings altogether. As we’ve explained before, inter partes review, or IPR, is a type of proceeding that lets people facing infringement allegations challenge bad patents in front of administrative judges with technical expertise—the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. These proceedings are much cheaper and faster than trials in federal court for both sides. They improve the patent system’s ability to promote innovation by providing an efficient way to cancel patents that should never have been granted in the first places. Given that inter partes review has made it possible to cancel wrongly-issued patents without spending millions of dollars, it’s no surprise patent owners are trying so hard to convince Congress to destroy it. Owners who exploit weak patents were much better off before IPR existed. They could threaten companies and software developers with impunity, knowing it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to fight back.”

Gallup: Big Pharma Sinks To The Bottom Of U.S. Industry Rankings
Justin McCarthy
“The pharmaceutical industry is now the most poorly regarded industry in Americans’ eyes, ranking last on a list of 25 industries that Gallup tests annually. Americans are more than twice as likely to rate the pharmaceutical industry negatively (58%) as positively (27%), giving it a net-positive score of -31.”

Nation of Change: It’s Time To Put #PeopleOverPharma
Connie Huynh
“The trade deal will allow big U.S. pharmaceutical companies to extend their patents for decades, preventing the release of lower-cost generics.  “People are manipulating the patent system and getting another 10 or 12 years,” Vivier said. “Basically, they’ll make it impossible for Congress to pass shorter lengths of patent.” The stranglehold big pharmaceutical companies hold over patents also dramatically harms those affected by Hepatitis C. A once-daily treatment, Harvoni, can cure the disease, but the drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences, charges over $1,000 per pill, or $94,500 for a full course.”

Kaiser Health News: Pharma Cash Rolls Into Congress To Defend An Embattled Industry
Emmarie Huetteman, Jay Hancock & Elizabeth Lucas
“Thus far, senators running for reelection have together pulled in over $115,000 more than the 27 senators who were running for reelection in mid-2017. The biggest single beneficiaries were Sens. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, and Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, who took in a whopping $103,000 and $102,000 respectively in the first six months of the year. Tillis and Coons, the leaders of a Senate subcommittee on intellectual property, have been working on legislation to overhaul the patent system — perhaps the most powerful tool brand-name drugmakers have to keep prices, and profits, high. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has been a vocal critic of the way some drugmakers use patents to extend their monopolies on drugs and block competitors, introducing a bill that would empower the government to sue drugmakers for gaming the system. Cornyn, who faces a difficult reelection fight, received about $65,500.”