ICYMI: CAPA Helps Force Tillis-Coons Bill, Rewarding Big Pharma, Back to the Drawing Board

Good afternoon –

In case you missed it, after several days of stinging testimony and growing public blowback against their proposed legislation that would overrule over 150 years of carefully crafted Supreme Court precedent on patent eligibility and open the floodgates to further abuses of the patent system by Big Pharma, Senators Tillis and Coons acknowledged the need to revisit their proposed reforms to Section 101 of the Patent Act.

  • At the close of this week’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Senator Tillis admitted that he is “now really convinced that we need further refinements…. I also think we can make those changes and work to address many of the valid concerns that run across the spectrum of the testimony.”

That Senators Tillis and Coons now acknowledge their bill has significant shortcomings is a major departure from last week when both Senators would not acknowledge the harmful impacts of their draft and insisted their bill did not do what critics like the Coalition Against Patent Abuse said it did.

  • Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Coons told Politico Pro on June 4 that it was “significantly misleading” to say the bill would overrule the 2013 Supreme Court decision that established that isolated genes aren’t eligible for patent protection.  The Senator also rejected criticism on June 4 during the 1st subcommittee hearing on patent reform saying that “our proposal would not change the law to allow a company to patent a gene as it exists in the human body.”
  • The pair then tried to clarify in an op-ed that they “agree that nobody should be able to patent genes as they exist in the human body.”

Unfortunately that’s exactly what their bill, as written, would have done and please see this statement from CAPA:

  • “Our coalition appreciates Senators Tillis and Coons’ willingness to revisit their flawed proposal which would have opened the door to even greater Big Pharma abuses and higher prescription drug prices for patients. We hope to work with them to find a solution that actually protects patients while fostering innovation for life-saving treatments.” —Matthew Lane, executive director of the Coalition Against Patent Abuse

Of note, this reversal only happened because the Senators were put on defense by groups like CAPA who pointed out that the bill, as written, had significant flaws that would allow the patenting of human genes and expand the ability of Big Pharma to take advantage of the patent system and further drive-up prices on patients:

  • CQ: Drug Industry Watchers Raise Alarms Over Patent Bill Effort “Matthew Lane, executive director of the Coalition Against Patent Abuse, whose members include health insurers and generic drug manufacturers, argued that the bill would return the system to a time when genes and other naturally occurring processes could be patented. He said that could prohibit research when some new discoveries are made. “If you’re locking up this information, it is very hard for people to research, and there is actually very little incentive for anyone that doesn’t hold the patent on a family of discoveries to do research,” he said.
  • Washington Post: The Supreme Court Banned Patenting Genes. But Congress Might Change That “The draft from Coons and Tillis… essentially erases a precedent the Supreme Court laid out in three unanimous rulings between 2012 and 2014 in which the justices said patents can’t be granted for “products of nature,” “laws of nature” or ‘abstract ideas.’”
  • Wired: Congress Is Debating—Again—Whether Genes Can Be Patented Charles Duan, a patent policy researcher at the R Street Institute in Washington, DC, said he was encouraged by Coons’ words but that his assertion is inconsistent with the proposed text. “The result of the legislation as it’s been drafted right now could make it possible to obtain patents on pure scientific research,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the intent, but I think that’s what the language does.”

CAPA has promoted a constant drumbeat of opposition to this damaging legislation, and the Senators reversal demonstrated the real impact we’re having.

  • CAPA Twitter: Today @senjudiciary examines the repercussions of patent abuse in America. Our statement on how the Coons/Tillis legislation would loosen important rules on #BigPharma https://t.co/T1Xh0j9Dyn
  • IAM Magazine: CAPA’s contributions in this fight have already been noticed, with IAM Magazine labeling the coalition a “Powerful Healthcare Advocacy Group.”

About CAPA

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.