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Multiple patents drive up drug prices

Written by Diane Archer

Many prescription drugs have patent protections that deliver monopoly pricing power to their manufacturers for far longer than the 20-years intended by the US patent law. A recent report by I-MAK finds that the top 12 drugs in the US have an average of 71 patents each. Multiple patents drive up drug prices in the US. Not surprisingly, Americans are struggling to afford critical medications.

In the last six years, prices on these 12 top-selling prescription drugs have increased an average of nearly 70 percent. Four of these drugs have seen their prices more than double since 2012–Lyrica (163%), Enbrel (155%), Humira (144%), and Lantus (114%).

And, four of these 12 drugs have already benefited from patent protection for 20 years. Still, their manufacturers continue to seek patent protections for many more years–Herceptin, Rituxan, Biogen, Enbrel and Remicade. This practice of extending patents through modest changes to a drug is called “evergreening.”

AbbVie manufactures Humira, the top-selling drug in the US. It has 247 patent applications for Humira. Roche/Genentech first filed for patent protection for Herceptin, a cancer drug, in 1985. Today, it continues to file patent applications, which could extend its monopoly pricing power as long as 48 years, until 2033.

We need to reform the patent system and stop these patent abuses. We need generic competition in the prescription drug marketplace. It could help drive down drug costs. For now, 19 million Americans are forced to buy their prescription drugs from abroad, where prices are significantly lower.

If you believe Congress should rein in drug prices, please sign this petition.

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