Affordable prescription drugs need bipartisan patent reform

This op-ed originally appeared on The Washington Examiner on February 14, 2024.

Like food, gas, and other essential products, the public is now paying more for prescription drugs than ever before. In January alone, drug manufacturers raised the price of more than 910 major brand-name drugs by 5% on average, according to the drug price nonprofit 46Brooklyn Research. Between 2011 and 2021, America’s annual spending on prescription drugs increased 64%, from $366 billion to $603 billion

A major driver of the rising cost of prescription drugs is patent abuse.

America’s patent system is essential to promote new innovations that benefit everyone. In the case of drugs, patents are essential for developing lifesaving and life-improving medications. However, drug manufacturers are increasingly obtaining patents that do not advance new drugs or new innovations for existing drugs. Instead, they are obtaining patents to stymie generic competition so they can raise prices.

Patent abuses force patients to wait years and sometimes decades before they can purchase a cheaper generic version of an expensive brand-name drug. A 2021 analysis of the 12 bestselling drugs in the United States found that these drugs have an average of 74 patents. These patents force patients to wait 40 years before they can access a cheaper generic version of these drugs.

Without generic competitors, drug manufacturers are free to raise prices. Between 2016 and 2021, the makers of these top-selling drugs raised their prices by 44%. In 2021, these drugs, on average, cost $57,000 for every Medicare beneficiary who used these drugs.

Expanding access to generic drugs would dramatically improve the affordability of prescription drugs. Introducing two generic competitors, on average, reduces drug prices by 54%. Four competitors lower prices by 79%, and six competitors lower prices by 95%...

Read the full op-ed in The Washington Examiner.

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