Legal, Pricing

New report singles out Big Pharma players for ringing their blockbusters with patents while hiking prices for years

What do Roche, Pfizer and AbbVie all have in common, aside from sharing Big Pharma status?

They all have pursued a strategy of padding their defense of blockbuster franchises with a bristling set of patents while steadily pushing up the price of their biggest earners.

That’s the conclusion of a nonprofit group called Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), which has issued a new report that spells out how this strategy works — at the expense of consumers.

Looking at the 12 biggest drugs on the market by revenue, the group concluded that manufacturers filed for an average of 129 patents on each one, and landed an average of 71 in return. Meanwhile, over the past 6 years the group has seen a 68% average increase in price — with the top 4 well over 100% — as the manufacturers benefited by extending their franchise long past the boundaries lawmakers had envisioned.

AbbVie made it to the top of the list as the worst offender in the bunch, pulling out all stops in guarding the world’s most valuable drug — Humira — with 247 patent applications. Roche, meanwhile, has long been gunning to extend the protected status of Herceptin. And Pfizer’s Lyrica protection program was held up as one of the worst examples of a major company gaming the patent system in its favor.

(T)hese twelve highest grossing drugs cost $96 billion to health insurers, government payers, and consumers in 2017 alone. Since drugmakers often continue to increase the prices of medicines once or twice a year, even after the product has already been on the market for many years, revenues may continue to grow for these medicines until there is generic competition.


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