[Ip-health] A Supreme Court victory for lowering drug prices

Tahir Amin tahir at i-mak.org
Mon Apr 30 09:21:41 PDT 2018


*A Supreme Court victory for lowering drug prices*



A recent Supreme Court decision on patents — *Oil States v. Greene’s Energy
* — *marks an understated victory, with far-reaching consequences that will
positively impact families and communities across America. This case has
deep implications for basic economic fairness, with the judiciary
recognizing the importance of keeping critical checks in systems that have
become far too imbalanced.

In the national media, this case is being held up as a victory for Silicon
Valley and the wealthy tech elites. Perhaps this makes sense: The decision
handed down April 24 preserves a process for disputing and overturning
unmerited patents, helping curb the glut of patent trolls polluting the
industry. But this is not just a victory for the ensconced Palo Alto bubble
— working families are silent winners of this week’s Supreme Court decision.

In 2011, Congress created within the U.S Patent Office a body called the Patent
Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)
While the patent office examines and grants patents, which are akin to
giving a monopoly power for a period of time for an invention, the PTAB
serves as an appeal body when such rights are disputed. This week’s SCOTUS
decision affirmed that the PTAB can continue its role in ensuring that
monopoly rights given through a patent can be reversed.

Why is this important for ordinary Americans? Abuse of the patent system is
directly tied to skyrocketing drug prices.

Americans of all political stripes are united on one thing: Drug prices
have spiraled out of control. One in 4 Americans cannot fill their
prescriptions because they can’t afford them. Nineteen million Americans
are forced to go overseas to buy their drugs because companies don’t price
fairly. And pharmaceutical companies get away with their exorbitant pricing
by abusing our patent system.

In order to maintain monopolies on life-saving treatments, pharmaceutical
companies often file dozens of unmerited patents on their drugs, blocking
the generic competition that lowers prices. For example, Celgene has
applied for over 100 patents on just one cancer drug, Revlimid. As a
result, Celgene will likely make an extra $45 billion while Americans
should have been able to access cheaper alternative generic options years

The PTAB can curb that abuse and help restore integrity to our patent
system, stopping drug companies from holding a wrongly issued monopoly for
years or even decades more. In fact, roughly half of the pharmaceutical
patents challenged through the new PTAB reviews are found to be unmerited.
This includes patents on expensive drugs: The blockbuster multiple
sclerosis drug Copaxone, for example, is one drug the PTAB found to have
been wrongly granted patents, thus allowing cheaper versions of the
medicine to enter the market.

But more broadly, this Supreme Court decision offers a bit of respite and a
rare moment of bipartisan consensus in an increasingly fractured America.
The decision strikes at the heart of basic economic unfairness and the ways
in which power has become concentrated in the hands of industries — like
the pharmaceutical industry which works hard to lobby and advocate and
influence to ensure that no checks and balances exist to curb their
unfettered power. The Supreme Court upheld a basic mechanism to curb that

There is more work to be done. Congress must continue to improve upon the
system it built in 2011. We must work to ensure our patent system rewards
true invention and allows healthy competition, rather than encouraging
frivolous patenting that rewards corporations at the expense of everyday

But the *Oil States *decision offers a glimmer of hope for patients and
communities who are struggling to get medical treatment. This week’s
Supreme Court decision makes it possible to believe that those families may
have a shot at affording the medicines they so desperately need.

*Priti Krishtel  <priti at i-mak.org>is the co-executive director of the
Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), a nonprofit of
lawyers, health experts & scientists investigating and challenging patents
that drive up drug pricing.*

Tahir Amin
Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director
Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK)
*Website:* www.i-mak.org
*Email:* tahir at i-mak.org
*Skype: *tahirmamin
*Tel:* +1 917 455 6601 <(917)%20455-6601>/+44 771 853 9472

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