High drug prices “infecting” generics: Experts


4 Feb 2016

Haematologists in the US have accused the pharmaceutical industry of using strategies to delay patient access to cheaper generic drugs in a bid to maximise profits.

Writing in Blood  forum article lead author Hagop Kantarjian, MD, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center said pharmaceutical companies use a variety of strategies to delay, prevent, and suppress the timely availability of affordable generic drugs.

Among them, say the authors, is a “pay-for-delay” tactic in which the company that owns the patent pays a generic company to delay entry into the market.

Other strategies included investing heavily in advertising the brand-name drug and lobbying for laws that prevent patients from importing cheaper generics from other countries.

Another strategy referred to as “product hopping,” involves switching the market for a drug to a reformulated “new and improved” version with a slightly different tablet or capsule dose that offers no therapeutic advantage over the original but has a later-expiring patent.

“Each day in my clinic I see leukemia patients who are harmed because they cannot afford their treatment, some risking death because they cannot pay for the medicine keeping them alive,” said Dr. Kantarjian.

“Overall, these strategies demonstrate that the trend of high brand-name drug prices has recently infected generic drugs, as companies value profit at the expense of long-term utility to society.

We must be vigilant in recognizing these strategies and advocating for solutions that will allow companies to accomplish their dual mission:  make reasonable profits and help save and/or improve patients’ lives.”

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