A Tale Of Two Patent Schemes

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on July 20, 2016

A new article in the New York Times confirms concerns that drugmakers’ patent schemes promote monopoly-like pricing rather than improved patient access. The article spotlights two blockbuster drugs Humira and Enbrel, and their bevy of new patents that will try to prevent meaningful competition from biosimilars.

Humira already has market exclusivity under orphan drug status for treating certain illnesses that gives it seven years without any competition from other medications for the orphan indication – further allowing AbbVie to increase Humira’s prices if it chooses. Recall AbbVie increased the list price of the branded biologic eight times by a total of 73 percent, over three years.

More than 70 additional patents for Humira would protect the world’s top-selling drug until at least 2022, according to the NYT.

From 2010 to 2014, Enbrel’s price jumped 88 percent, all while demand for the medication fell. Enbrel’s two new patents, the NYT points out, would protect the drug till 2029 – delaying competition from more affordable generics for 31 years.

These two drugs illustrate how drugmakers continue to command higher and higher drug prices for longer periods of time due to monopoly power resulting from patent protection. The health insurance community isn’t alone in standing up against harmful patent schemes that aim to block competition. Google, Apple, Cisco, and other technology companies have long been fighting for patent reform. Drugmakers’ efforts to delay generic entry, block competition, and artificially prolong market exclusivity oppose the goals of promoting a fair and efficient patent system.

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