'Patent thickets' are driving up drug costs, Kaiser leader says

The most popular drugs, on average, have 74 patents each — and these "patent thickets" are "enormous legal fortresses" stomping out competition to keep drug prices high, according to Anthony Barrueta, a senior vice president at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente. 

With drugmakers repackaging their older medications and seeking "new rewards" for them with dozens of patents, patients are faced with increased costs as competition for lower-cost alternatives is stifled, Mr. Barrueta, SVP of government relations, wrote in a Dec. 5 statement. 

To save billions in drug spending, "we first need to change laws to remove many of the patent thickets that currently threaten biosimilar development," he said. 

For example, AbbVie's arthritis medicine Humira has more than 100 patents, and 90 percent of the 247 filed patents were submitted after the FDA authorized the drug, according to the Commonwealth Fund. 

"In a world where prescription drug spending has increased 60 percent in the last decade to over $400 billion today, these anti-competitive practices are not only financially unsustainable, they're unjust," Mr. Barrueta wrote.

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