By Tahir Amin, The Huffington Post | August 17, 2016
The cost of dozens of brand-name drugs have nearly doubled in just the past five years. Public outrage over drug prices extends from Capitol Hill to the presidential candidates to patients. In response, pharmaceutical executives are spending more on lobbying and marketing. Yet for all this attention, most of the proposed solutions for reducing prescription drug costs—tougher negotiations, appeals for transparent R&D costs or investigations into insurers—miss one of the primary sources of the problem: the way we award patents.
Today, too many drug makers receive patents for unmerited and unjust reasons. Take, for example, the hepatitis C drug Harvoni®, which has one the largest sticker prices despite its origins in previously published information and compounds. In the last year, China and Ukraine have rejected patents for sofosbuvir, the base compound for Harvoni, on the grounds that it doesn’t deserve a patent. Or, take Baraclude, a hepatitis B drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb whose lowest known price in the U.S. a few years ago was $15,100. In a successful patent challenge that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, the generic drug maker Teva showed that the patent claim on the base compound in the brand name drug was invalid—which then allowed Teva to go on to offer a generic version for half the cost in the U.S. and for as low as $427 in the developing world by other companies.
While TV ads and sticker-shock pricing by major corporations would have us believe that every new drug they roll out is a breakthrough invention, the reality is that they are often playing games with the lax standards in the U.S. patent system.
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