THE REFILL: Latest Dosage of Rx Patent Abuse

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

• During a recent Senate Hearing, Big Pharma and its ally, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) continued their push for the STRONGER Patents Act, a harmful piece of legislation that would open the open the door for Big Pharma to expand their already out-of-control patent abuse.

• During the same hearing Senator Thom Tills (R-NC) made clear his concern that the STRONGER Patents Act would effectively strip the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of one of its more effective tools to challenge and cancel bad patents.

• By expressing his reservations with the STRONGER Patents Act, Senator Tillis echoed a growing chorus of voices opposed to this harmful bill. Ahead of the hearing, over 20 organizations from across the ideological spectrum and representing a diverse group of interests sent a letter, organized by CAPA, to Senators Coons and Tillis outlining their serious reservations with the legislation.

• On Tuesday, Matthew Lane, executive director of the Coalition Against Patent Abuse, writing in Morning Consult, urged Congress to include patent reform in any bill to lower prescription drug prices. Lane noted that “it is vital that legislation meant to tackle the drug pricing crisis include provisions to end Big Pharma’s reckless abuse of our patent system.”

• Last Week, Garrett Johnson, co-founder of Lincoln Network and Wayne T. Brough, president of the Innovation Defense Foundation penned a must-read rebuke of Big Pharma’s efforts to challenge the Inter Partes Review (IPR) process. The pair notes that “IPR helps to ensure that only valid patents are allowed in the market.”

• Finally, Charles Duan, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy at the R Street Institute shared an important critique of the STRONGER Patents Act, noting the legislation’s disastrous repercussions for the American patent system and patients. Duan writes that “The STRONGER Patents Act, rather than trying to tackle the problem of Patent Office errors, sweeps $904 million in mistakes under the rug.”

WHAT WE’VE SAID

CAPA Statement: CAPA Urges Senators To Reject Legislation That Enables Big Pharma’s Patent Abuse
“By making it harder to cut through Big Pharma’s patent thickets, the STRONGER Patents Act will keep prescription drug prices high at a time when Congress desperately needs to take actions to cut drug prices for American patients and taxpayers,” the letter reads in part. “IPR is far too important to patients and small and medium sized businesses to diminish it in this manner. If anything, IPR should be strengthened.”

CAPA Statement: CAPA Applauds House Committee On Energy And Commerce For Shining Light On Big Pharma’s Patent Abuse
“CAPA appreciates the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s efforts to expose Big Pharma’s cynical tactics for what they are — abuse of the patent system and exploitation of American patients. With the cost of prescription drugs rising across the country, Congress must take action that reins in Big Pharma, encourages innovation and puts patients first. Any legislation that seeks to address the drug pricing crisis must include provisions that end Big Pharma’s rampant abuse of the patent system.”  

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE READING

BIG PHARMA’S LATEST GAME OF PATENTS

Axios: Vitals
Caitlin Owens
The health care industry continued to rake in record-level profits in the second quarter, with its year-over-year earnings increasing by 23%, according to an Axios analysis of 160 companies. The bottom line: Pharmaceutical firms and hospitals, in particular, are reaping some of the largest rewards even amid the sustained public furor over drug prices and surprise medical bills, Axios’ Bob Herman reports. Where it stands: We updated our health care earnings tracker to include 48 not-for-profit hospital systems, many of which also own health insurance companies, and we will add more as more financial documents are released. By the numbers: Big Pharma remains the cash king. Drug companies collected almost half of all health care profits despite generating less than 20% of industry revenue. 12 of the 16 most profitable companies in Q2 were pharmaceutical firms. This theme should sound familiar. The intrigue: Hospitals don’t retain as much money as drug companies, but their prices and Wall Street investments are still leading to sizable windfalls.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Don’t Let Congress Hand Patent Abusers Their Ultimate Wishlist
Joe Mullin
The Stronger Patents Act would tear apart inter partes review (IPR), an critical tool for challenging bad patents. People who are charged with patent violations shouldn’t have to have millions of dollars in the bank to defend themselves. IPR provides a more cost-effective way of evaluating patents than expensive federal court litigation. Patent trolls, drug companies, and IP lawyer groups have been attacking IPR for years now, and they’re all big supporters of this bill. Big patent owners have grown so used to gaming the patent system that they’re willing to throw out IPRs, despite the fact that these reviews are clearly in the public interest.

POLICY PROGRESS

Bloomberg Government: Drug Patent ‘Gaming’ Raises Antitrust Questions in Congress
Jacquie Lee
Drug patents have been an underlying current in the drug price discussion on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers seem to agree on the need for companies to disclose the patents they have on their products and when those patents expire, but efforts to change the drug patent system beyond that have hit a wall. One potential legislative change, the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2019 (S. 1416,) would limit the amount of new patents companies can file for old products. It passed as Senate committee in June but there’s been no movement on the bill since then. Lawmakers frequently suggest giving the Federal Trade Commission more resources to go after drug companies accused of “product hopping,” which is when drugmakers move customers from one branded product to a very similar one with a longer patent life without additional benefits. But antitrust lawsuits have had mixed success, which is why House members appear to be searching for a legislative solution. The FTC is not testifying at the hearing.

ABOUT COALITION AGAINST PATENT ABUSE

The Coalition Against Patent Abuse are healthcare providers, consumer groups, patient advocacy organizations, free market advocates, employers, and others fighting abuses of the patent system that can extend government-granted monopolies that illegitimately keep drug prices high for years, or even decades. Our members include the following groups and organizations: America’s Health Insurance Plans, Association for Accessible Medicines, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, Citizen Outreach, Consumer Action, Innovation Defense Fund, Institute for Liberty, Kaiser Permanente, Knowledge Ecology International, Lincoln Network, R Street Institute, Society for Patient Centered Orthopedics, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.