Pharma-friendly senator calls on FDA for a third time to show patent protections shouldn't be blamed for high drug prices
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”
In a letter dated Wednesday, Tillis told FDA commissioner Rob Califf that the FDA should conduct “an independent assessment and study” on the connection between patents and high drug prices. Previously, Tillis wrote to lament the work of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), which has claimed that biopharmaceuticals “are often protected by dozens or hundreds of patents each, with an alleged effect of blocking generic competition for 30 to 50 years or longer per drug.”
Indeed, drugs like AbbVie’s Humira and Amgen’s Enbrel have used fortresses of patents to protect their blockbusters from competition for decades.
The FDA, according to Tillis, has never responded to any of his requests.
Tahir Amin, co-founder of I-MAK, told Endpoints News that he responded to Tillis in March, adding via email:
This is an unfortunate distraction from the great work done by the House Oversight Committee culminating in the Majority Staff Report at the end of last year investigating rising pharmaceutical drug prices companies and the link to patenting practices. It would be in the greater interest of Americans who are struggling to pay for their medicines if the Senate would be asking these questions and demanding more transparency and data from the pharmaceutical companies.