Congress has a chance to reduce drug patent abuses, lower costs for Alaskans

September 12, 2023 6:37 pm
Jar for prescription drugs stuffed with hundred dollar bill representing high cost health care

Congress has an opportunity to affect the cost of prescription drugs through the Affordable Prescription for Patients Act of 2023, the commentary author writes. (Getty Images photo)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has long been a leader on issues concerning health care affordability and promoting more transparency in the health care system. As Congress plots out its next steps on health care reform, there is one glaring issue that deserves attention – Big Pharma’s abuse of the patent system – and there is a legislative solution that would address this issue: The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2023. Sen. Murkowski should consider lending her support to this solution.

One of the most egregious tactics Big Pharma employs to abuse our patent system is called “product hopping.” This is when companies make small changes to a drug, such as its intake method or dosage, and then file new patents to protect these changes. Meanwhile Big Pharma companies shift patients from the older version of the drug onto the newer version, which has new patents. By doing this repeatedly, pharmaceutical firms are able to create “patent thickets” around their most lucrative products. This locks patients into paying higher prices for the same drugs while preventing them from accessing more affordable alternatives. 

The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2023 would crack down on product hopping by enabling the Federal Trade Commission to go after Big Pharma firms who try to employ this tactic. The bill would also help usher in more generics and biosimilars to market, giving patients access to lower-priced products. 

As Congress tries to pull together another legislative package on health care this year, including the Affordable Prescription for Patients Act of 2023 wouldn’t just be smart, it would help lower costs for Alaskan patients who are still fighting higher prices for many everyday goods.


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Miles Pruner
Miles Pruner

Miles Pruner is an agent with New York Life Insurance Company and works with many retirees on their planning, hearing about their struggles with the rising cost of medications. He was born in Florida and has lived in various places across the U.S.A., finally moving to Alaska in 1997. Miles lives in Eagle River.