While the new drug remdesivir is showing promise for treating COVID-19, one legal expert says that this moment in history should awaken the public to a practice employed by some pharmaceutical companies – patent abuse.
“Most Americans are not aware that we – not the drug companies — are the ones who pay for a significant amount of the research and development of new drugs including remdesivir,” says intellectual property attorney Omid Khalifeh, founding partner of Omni Legal Group in Beverly Hills. “These behemoths not only control production and testing of these drugs, but also reap the profits from their sale.”
Khalifeh explains that with remdesivir, which was originally used to fight Ebola, Gilead holds the monopoly on the drug yet it took a public outcry for them to allow the drug to be produced for widespread use to treat COVID-19.
“What if Gilead held firm and refused to bow to public pressure?” he asks. “Why should our chances of fighting COVID-19 fall into the hands of a single company — one that benefited from taxpayer money?”
Khalifeh says that the government should exercise its right to grant licenses to competing companies.
“We already have laws in place that force owners of patents to use them more responsibly,” says Khalifeh, who emphasizes that now is the time for the government to flex its legal muscle and stop patent abuse. “If these licenses were granted more freely, the public would reap the benefits and never again be held hostage to the whims of a single company and, as history tells us. putting multiple generic drugs on the market has been shown to drastically reduce prices.
“Elsewhere in the world, especially in Europe, fewer patent applications with friendlier regulatory requirements for generics have helped lower drug prices,” he adds. “A phenomenon we’re seeing more of in the U.S. is a spike in border-hopping, where Americans are traveling to Mexico and Canada to purchase the same brand name drugs they’ve been prescribed here for pennies on the dollar. Those in need of treatment should not have to jump through hoops for medicine that should be affordable in the first place.”
Also driving up prices in the U.S. is the large number of drug makers filing for secondary patents that extend their monopolies. One common practice is to employ small changes in how an existing medication is made or taken by patients. Also known as “evergreening” or “product hopping,” the major players may simply lower the dosage and change it from tablet to capsule form or remake the drug so that it can be taken once a day instead of twice. Khalifeh says that pharmaceutical companies gets a greater financial return from this patent strategy than any other sector of the business world.
“The key to reforming the industry and eliminating patent abuse is to stop these ‘pay for delay’ agreements that keep generic alternatives off the market and use patents strictly for encouraging invention,” suggests Khalifeh.
Omni Legal Group has emerged as one of the nation’s most experienced law firms specializing in intellectual property protection. Its clientele represents a wide range of industries. For more information, visit OmniLegalGroup.com or call (310) 276-6664.
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