ICYMI… Axios: “AbbVie’s blockade of cheaper Humira options”

New Report Highlights How AbbVie’s Patent System Gaming Keeps Prices High for U.S. Patients

WASHINGTON D.C. – In case you missed it, Axios reported this week that international sales of Humira, a medicine that treats a number of chronic conditions and is widely prescribed and used by millions of people around the world, are declining due to the introduction of biosimilar competition in the marketplace.  Yet, prices in the U.S. for that same popular drug continue to rise because Humira’s manufacturer, AbbVie, has used the U.S. patent system to keep competition out of the American marketplace until 2023.

Key Stats from Axios:

“It’s no secret, competition works when allowed.  Unfortunately in the U.S., loopholes within our patent system enable some major pharmaceutical companies to extend monopolies, sometimes indefinitely, on their blockbuster drugs without any regard to the costs for patients.  AbbVie’s patent blockade with Humira is the poster child for why Congress must act to reform the system,” said CAPA Executive Director Matthew Lane.

AbbVie has filed over 240 patent applications for Humira and received over 110 granted patents.  This tactic, known as patent thicketing, has allowed AbbVie to keep competition out of the marketplace while other countries have had access to more affordable biosimilars.  However, AbbVie isn’t alone, a study by I-MAK found the practice of patent thicketing pervasive among the top 12 best selling drugs by revenue.

In a recent op-ed in TechDirt, Lane dives into the repeated tactics used by Big Pharma to block competition, explaining that “Drug patent thickets are largely made up of low quality patents whose applications were only filed because of the benefit they provide in keeping competition away from top selling drugs.”  Ultimately, any efforts made by Congress to lower drug prices must also focus on improving patent quality and strengthening instrumental tools such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s inter partes review (IPR) process to do just that:

“…the USPTO’s inter partes review process (IPR) has been instrumental in cancelling low-quality patents and allowing new drug competition.  This is one of the best tools created by the America Invents Act to cut through these dense patent thickets.  IPRs were substantially weakened under the last administration, but a Congress that cares about drug pricing could restore and strengthen this tool to great effect.”

To read the full article in Axios, click here.