Leahy, Issa, Eshoo Lead Letter Asking Patent Office To Reverse Policy Keeping Drug Prices Out Of Americans’ Reach

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Sept. 16, 2021) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, joined by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Congressman Tom Tiffany (R-Wi.), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), and Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Thursday asked the U.S. Patent Office to take steps to reverse a policy, put in place by the Office’s previous leadership, that is keeping drug prices out of reach for Vermonters and all Americans. 

In a letter to the Patent Office, the lawmakers describe how drug companies sometimes collect dozens of patents of questionable quality on a single drug and extend their monopolies through slight modifications to those drugs.  It is expensive for consumers or competitors to challenge these patents in court, keeping drug prices artificially high.  The Patent Office has proceedings in place to allow challenges to go forward faster and less expensively than in court. 

But under its previous leadership, the Patent Office began to decline these challenges in record numbers – declining nearly one in five of them in 2020, for reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the patents.  As the lawmakers wrote in the letter sent today, without such a check on questionable patents, “the public will lose one of the few tools available that can help address the root cause of high prescription drug prices and drive competition in the marketplace.”

Leahy, Issa, Eshoo and the other lawmakers are urging the Patent Office to reassert its own “role in reviewing drug manufacturers’ anticompetitive practices, including by ending the policies that have caused the spike in discretionary denials of patent challenges.”  Leahy, author of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, the law that ten years ago today established the Patent Office proceedings discussed in the letter, believes it is long past time to bring down the cost of drugs that Americans depend upon, and that ending this Patent Office policy will help achieve that goal.

Read the full letter here.

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