More than 60 organizations sent a letter Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). The letter calls for the passing of legislation that the organizations say would lower drug prices through patent reform and increased competition.
The organizations include Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, a nonprofit fighting to lower prescription drug prices, and AARP, a nonprofit focused on Americans aged 50 and older. They call for the Senate leadership to advance the following bills:
- S. 142, which would tamp down on pay-for-delay deals. This refers to when brand name drug makers pay potential generic and biosimilar competitors to prevent them from bringing their product to market.
- S. 150, which would target patent thickets and product hopping. A patent thicket is a network of overlapping patents that often curb innovation, while product hopping refers to when pharmaceutical companies make small changes to a drug in order to extend market exclusivity.
- S. 148 and S. 1067, which would put an end to “drug company abuse of citizen petitions before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” according to the letter. Drug companies use these petitions to delay generics and biosimilars from entering the market.
- S. 775, which would require the FDA to let generic drug applicants know whether the drug is “qualitatively and quantitatively the same as the listed brand-name drug,” according to the bill summary.
- S. 79, which would create a task force that would improve communication between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the FDA on patent-related activities for drugs.
The groups noted that nearly four out of five voters “support such reforms.” This includes 75% of Republicans, 73% of Independents and 86% of Democrats. The organizations estimated that the bills would save taxpayers $2-3 billion over 10 years.
“There is a real opportunity in the Senate to advance a package of bipartisan bills that will increase competition and market forces to lower drug prices,” said Merith Basey, executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, in a statement. “Senators on both sides of the aisle have put in far too much work on these bills over several years to let this opportunity be lost. The moment is at hand to enact reforms that voters overwhelmingly support and which will help patients of all ages regardless of whether they get their health care in the private or public sector.”
The letter comes at a time when about 28% of patients say it’s difficult to afford their prescription drugs. The organizations even gave an example of such a patient.
“The bills will help people like Sue Lee, 81, of Crestwood, Kentucky who is living with plaque psoriasis and who was forced to endure painful sores because she couldn’t afford the $8,000 a month cost of Humira – which was protected by 165 patents – and had to forgo the drug,” the letter states.
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