How the pharmaceutical industry uses patents to inflate your drug costs

September 12, 2022

There’s documented proof that the costs of prescription medications for U.S. consumers continue to rise.

In fact, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds nearly half – 48% – of ALL prescription drug costs increased between 2019 and 2020.

And some costs went up a lot.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, epilepsy drug costs have increased by a whopping 277% over the past decade.

A recent article in PharmaNewsIntelligence points to drug company patents as a major reason for those higher costs, because patent protections block other companies from manufacturing lower-cost generic medications as long as they are in force.

The U.S. Patent Act of 1952 allows drug companies patent rights as a way to help manufacturers with the sometimes substantial costs that come with the research and development of new medications. Under the law, the holder of a valid patent generally has the exclusive right to make, use, sell and import their invention (in this case a drug) for approximately 20 years.

Yet, as PharmaNewsIntelligence reports, “misuse of patents has driven medication costs to a new high. These increased costs have limited access to necessary medications.”

In fact, rather than incentivizing innovation and the creation of new medications, nearly 8 in 10 new patent applications are not for new medicines. Instead, companies are seeking to extend their patent protections and preserve their exclusive access to the market. This has prompted renewed calls for federal lawmakers and policymakers to reexamine the patent system and ensure that it is truly serving innovation vs. protecting profits.

How much has the cost of your medications increased in recent years? Are generics available? Share your experiences with Voices for Affordable Health.