When Rutgers Law Professor Michael Carrier found that pharmaceutical companies were raising prices on drugs and blocking access to generic alternatives, he put his scholarship to good use.
Carrier, who examines the pharmaceutical industry through the lens of antitrust and intellectual property law, has written articles, testified to Congress, and provided frameworks to refute the arguments the drug industry has offered justifying high prices.
His work became the basis for the proposed law S. 1416, The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act of 2019, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and co-sponsored by nine Senators. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposed legislation 22-0 in June, and it may be considered by Congress this fall.
“I thought brand-name drug companies were playing games to keep prices higher than they should be by blocking generics,” he said. “This literally can be a matter of life and death for patients unable to afford their medicines.”
Carrier said drug companies switch from one version of a drug to another that is basically the same just to block the generic drug. Despite the similarity, the generic has to go back to the drawing board, developing a new product and getting approval. Companies throw their vast marketing armies behind the new version, often highlighting meaningless distinctions between the drugs to drive demand. At the same time, courts do not always recognize what is going on.
“I saw courts being hoodwinked by companies,” Carrier said.
The professor has also brought attention to the misuse of citizen petitions, which were designed for consumers to raise safety concerns about drugs at the FDA. His study found that brand firms filed nearly all of the petitions targeting pending generics and that the FDA denied more than 90 percent of the petitions.
Carrier’s suggestions to impose a time limit for filing petitions and obtain more information from the FDA were included in S. 660, the Efficiency and Transparency in Petitions Act introduced by Senator Braun (R-IL) earlier this year. Carrier’s time limit suggestion, which ensures that brand firms can’t delay filing petitions for years, also was included in the Lower Health Care Costs Act , S. 1895, which the Senate HELP Committee passed in a 20-3 vote in June.
This month, Carrier also testified before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a hearing titled “Profits Over Consumers: Exposing How Pharmaceutical Companies Game the System.”
Carrier said that fixing high drug prices is a bipartisan issue and that antitrust legislation can reduce drug company shenanigans. “By enacting legislation on product hopping and citizen petitions (together with laws limiting “pay-for-delay” settlements and requiring brands to provide samples to generics), Congress could help bring generics to the market earlier,” he said. “And in the process, the legislature could lower costs dramatically. With patients skipping their medications and splitting pills in half, there is no time to waste.”