High Value Health Care

Public’s right to challenge weak patents for Rx drugs is at risk.

different colors and shapes of tablets and pills
A_Dutzu | CC-BY-4.0

An important public right to challenge weak patents is at risk.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) recently proposed a new rule which would eliminate the public’s ability to challenge weak prescription drug patents through the only forum we have available to us: the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). PTAB challenges occur within the PTO before judges with expertise in patent law. 

Why is it important to challenge weak patents?

Drug companies inflate prescription drug prices by abusing patents, using a tactic called patent thickets. Patent thickets are created when drug companies file dozens of patent applications for a single drug. If weak patents are approved, the patent thicket inappropriately blocks generic drug competitors. That means the brand name drug company is allowed  to extend high monopoly pricing for  years beyond the original patent.

The proposed rule would get rid of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), a body which over the past decade has successfully revoked many weak patents. Patent challenges before the PTAB led to the price cuts of 50% to Suboxone, a treatment for opioid addiction, and 65% to the Solostar insulin injector pen.

It’s in the public’s interest to make sure that weak patents are challenged.

Removing the only venue that the public has to challenge drug patents means that the days of winning drug price savings through competition are over. 

U.S. PIRG filed comments, with coalition partners Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and Public Citizen, to oppose the new rule. 

Sign the petition against high prescription drug prices

(Thanks to Summer Intern, Lincoln Crockett, for his assistance in writing this update.)


Lincoln Crockett

Health Care Campaigns Intern, Summer 2023

See the Campaign

Show More