Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told me Feb. 7 she is working on legislation that would lower drug costs by keeping pharmaceutical companies from gaming the patent system.
Collins, chair of the Special Committee on Aging, said she plans to draft a bill to restrict so-called “evergreening”—the practice of extending protection for a product by taking out a new patent based on a different indication or new formulation. She spoke to me after a committee hearing on the cost of rheumatoid arthritis drugs.
The drug company AbbVie, for example, has more than 100 patents on the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira (adalimumab), Collins said during the hearing. She noted that many of the patents were added as the expiration date of the drug’s main patent approached in 2016.
Collins said biosimilar versions of Humira were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016, but AbbVie used patent litigation to hold up market entry. Biosimilars are less expensive versions of complex, FDA-approved biologic drugs. The biosimilars for Humira are Amgen Inc.'s Amjevita and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Cyltezo.
Biosimilar competition for Humira is needed as the price of the drug has risen from about $19,000 per year in 2012 to more than $38,000 per year today, Collins said.
Collins also told me her committee will hold additional hearings, as well as a hearing in April, on the increasing prices of the diabetes treatment insulin as part of her investigation into the cost of drugs.
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