Skip to comments.'Evergreening' Stunts Competition, Costs Consumers and Taxpayers (Big Pharma)
Posted on 09/26/2020 9:36:27 PM PDT by bitt
A new database is the first to comprehensively document Big Pharmas abuse of the regulatory process a tactic by drugmakers to prevent generic competition and extend their stranglehold over the market.
In 2011, Elsa Dixler was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. That August, she was prescribed Revlimid, a drug that had come on the market six years earlier. By January 2012, she went into full remission, where she has remained since. So long as Revlimid retains its effectiveness, she will take it for the rest of her life.
I was able to go back to work, see my daughter receive her Ph.D, and have a pretty normal life, said Dixler, a Brooklyn resident who is now 74. So, on the one hand, I feel enormously grateful.
But Dixlers normal life has come at a steep financial cost to her family and to taxpayers. Revlimid typically costs nearly $800 per capsule, and Dixler takes one capsule per day for 21 days, then seven days off, and then resumes her daily dose, requiring 273 capsules a year. Since retiring from The New York Times at the end of 2017, she has been on Medicare. Dixler entered the Part D coverage gap (known as the donut hole) within minutes, she said. She estimates that adding her deductible, her copayment of $12,000, and what her Part D insurance provider pays totals approximately $197,500 a year.
Revlimid should have been subject to competition from generic drug makers starting in 2009, bringing down its cost by many orders of magnitude. But by obtaining 27 additional patents, eight orphan drug exclusivities and 91 total additional protections from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since Revlimids introduction in 2005, its manufacturer, Celgene, has extended the drugs monopoly period by 18 years through March 8, 2028.
I cannot fathom the immorality of a business that relies on squeezing people with cancer, Dixler said, noting her astonishment that Revlimid has obtained orphan drug protections when it treats a disease that is not rare and does not serve a very limited population. She also observed that Revlimids underlying drug is thalidomide, which has been around for decades. They didnt invent a new drug, rather, they found a new use for it, she said.
The cost of Revlimid has imposed constraints on our retirement, Dixler said, but when I hear other peoples stories, I feel very lucky. A lot of people have been devastated financially.
Revlimid is a case study in a process known as evergreening artificially sustaining a monopoly for years and even decades by manipulating intellectual property laws and regulations. Evergreening is most commonly used with blockbuster drugs generating the highest prices and profits. Of the roughly 100 best-selling drugs, more than 70 percent have extended their protection from competition at least once. More than half have extended the protection cliff multiple times.
That said, everything should be done to reduce development costs such that there is more motivation for pharmaceutical companies to pursue therapeutics and to market their products more economically. I asked a high level scientist/company officer from a famous biotech - ‘Why does (therapeutic X) costs so much? Does it reflect R&D costs?’ The answer was “That's what the market will bear.” Honest, but problematic.
There was one really cringeworthy commercial with Sally Field where she talked about how much time was freed up in her busy schedule because she now only had to take one pill a month.
These are all ways to extend patents for longer periods.
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