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Strategy Examined on How Patent Holders are Delaying Market Entrance by Generics

Written by on Saturday, July 7th, 2007

The National Law Journal ran an article yesterday, which examined the strategy that patent holders are using to delay the entrance of generics on the market.

The article focuses on the controversial use of  “citizen petitions” brought before the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to temporarily delay the approval of a generic drug as a patent is about to expire while the FDA investigates safety challenges raised in the petitions.

The National Law Journal reports:

“For a relatively small amount of money, a company can inflict substantial harm on a competitor,” said David Balto, a Washington attorney and former assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition.

“It becomes attractive to keep rivals off the market and there is no better example than the citizen-petition process,” Balto said. . . .

It is clear the objective of many petitions is delay for financial advantage. The petitions arrive for FDA review as the brand-company drug expires, and they are based on information available much earlier, according to Balto.

While the new legislation proposed last week specifically addresses the issue of curbing these delaying tactics, The National Law Journal suggests that this will not necessarily provide a real solution to the issue, and may in fact just generate litigation, which could have the effect of generating even more delays than what are currently being caused by the petitions.

The National Law Journal explains as follows:

The U.S. Senate last week inserted petition reforms in a major FDA overhaul bill. The measure would not allow a petition to delay FDA approval of a generic unless delay is necessary to protect public health. As a check on competitors, petitioners must verify who is making the challenge and whether they expect to be paid for filing the petition. Congress must get annual reports on delays to generics based on the petitions.

[Scott Lassman, senior assistant general counsel for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (“PhRMA”)] said  PhRMA opposes the citizen-petition reforms and predicted that, if the measure becomes law, it may produce even more litigation. “These new requirements are so onerous, companies may decide to go to court to seek whatever they are seeking currently in petitions,” he said.

As I have indicated in prior blogposts, there are no easy answers to the tug of war between generics and brand-name drugs.  While there certainly is a push by the insurance industry and certain members of the left to make generics more available faster, there is very real tension on the part of biotech and pharmaceutical companies to prevent this from happening, so that they have an opportunity to fully realize the value in their investment.   The National Law Journal article highlights one specific aspect of this generics-brand name controversy, particularly with respect to how both sides are using  legal maneuvering to promote their cause.

However, what I think we should take away from this article, is the idea that the new legislation, which purports to end the legal maneuvering may actually result in only creating more problems for both sides of the dispute.   Is that really what is intended?  It is ironic to think that at a time when Congress is busy debating patent reform, which is in part intended to curb patent litigation, the same legislative body is simultaneously considering legislation that could have the effect of generating even more patent-related litigation.  What is wrong with this picture?

Category: Biotech Patents

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