High Value Health Care

PIRG attends Capitol Event on Patent Reform

Our health care team had the chance to connect with experts in patent law during a panel on prescription drugs on Capitol Hill.

seated crowd in white room with red carpet viewing panel of speakers at the front of the room
PIRG staff attends panel hosted by R Street at US Capitol on prescription drug patent reform and bills that would make it harder to challenge bad patents.

Last week while PIRG was on Capitol Hill, our health care team had the chance to connect with experts in patent law. During a panel on prescription drugs, we heard law professors, lawyers, and advocates discuss how patents affect prescription drugs. The purpose of the patent system is to encourage innovation by allowing inventors time-limited monopolies on their creations. The U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office (PTO) is the agency in charge of reviewing patent applications. An effective patent system should only grant patents for truly novel innovation. Otherwise, the system can actually stifle innovation by incentivizing companies to make minor tweaks to existing patents to maintain their price monopoly rather than pursuing new discoveries for medical treatment and cures.  

The panelists also touched on a bill introduced in Congress which would limit the power to challenge patents. The PREVAIL Act, like a proposed agency rule we opposed, would take away the public’s ability to petition the PTO to review a patent the petitioner thinks was wrongly granted. Challenging patents is an important legal step in ensuring our patent system remains robust and doesn’t stifle competition. Wrongly-granted patents can prevent generic and biosimilar medication from coming to market. By eliminating avenues to challenge patents, the PREVAIL ACT will only preserve monopoly power by pharmaceutical companies that wrap their drugs in layers of questionable patents. And that means patients are stuck with only one medication option, and higher prices.

How you can help

We’re glad to be working with these speakers and others to teach congressional staff about fair markets and tools to lower prescription drug costs. Watch our video on how drug manufacturers are abusing the patent system here.

Join our efforts to lower prescription drug costs. Tell President Biden to stop drug patent abuse so we can save money on generic drugs.

Maribeth Guarino

Former High Value Health Care, Advocate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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