Welcome To The Week In Review.
- The First Humira Competitor Has Arrived In The U.S.
- AbbVie’s blockbuster drug Humira faces biosimilar competition for the first time in the drug’s 20-year reign in the United States. Amjevita, manufactured by Amgen, is the first of many biosimilars that are likely to come to market this year to compete with Humira and will serve as a key test of whether biosimilars will drive down drug prices in a meaningful way for patients. AbbVie has been able to raise Humira’s annual price to more than $80,000 over the last 20 years by exploiting the patent system, applying for more than 300 patents related to Humira (a shady tactic known as “patent thicketing”), and suing competing biosimilars to delay their launches. “The result is that we have been paying roughly five times what they pay in the EU for Humira,” shared cancer patient and P4AD founder David Mitchell. “And patients in the US have suffered economic and physical harm as a result.” Sue Lee is one of those patients. She took Humira to treat painful sores caused by a chronic skin condition called psoriasis, but when she retired and went on Medicare, the drug suddenly cost her $8,000 per year – which she couldn’t afford. Without the medication, her sores “came back with a vengeance.” With additional Humira biosimilars slated to be on the market in 2023, patients like Sue hope that the price of the medication may finally be reined in. But that outcome is “a little complicated” to predict. “With biosimilars, there can be different rules, and doctors will likely need to see big savings to want to push you over to this new drug,” explained NPR pharmaceuticals correspondent Sydney Lupkin. “But there are expected to be several more Humira biosimilars this summer, and that could start to move the needle on price.” We sure hope so – patients have been waiting for this relief for far too long. — (Tradeoffs, The New York Times, Financial Times, NPR)
2. The Inflation Reduction Act? “I Think It’s Wonderful.”
- The drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act that went into place this year are bringing much-needed relief to patients across the United States. Debra Coleman, who lives in South Carolina, was unable to afford the $150 it would have cost her for the Shingrix vaccine before the law passed. “I don’t have that kind of extra money,” Debra said. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, vaccines are now free for people on Medicare like Debra. The new law also caps insulin copays at $35 per month for people on Medicare – truly “life-changing” for Robert Brown from Wisconsin, whose insulin cost nearly $200 per month for the many years before the law was in place. Looking ahead, patients aren’t the only ones who will see relief from the Inflation Reduction Act – the new law likely saves the U.S. government significant funds. A new study published in The Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) Health Forum found that if the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for costly drugs had existed as the study modeled it from 2018-2020, Medicare would have saved $26.5 billion, or 5% of all drug spending. Considering the average price Medicare paid for brand-name drugs more than doubled from 2009 to 2018, it’s safe to say the drug price reforms are a welcome change to a rigged system. “I think it’s wonderful. It’s the first thing that came across my mind when I was standing in line at (the pharmacy),” remarked Debra on the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. “It was like balloons going up.” We agree, Debra. — (Greenville Business Magazine, WTMJ, NBC News, JAMA Network)
3. Big Pharma’s Big Lobbying
- Big Pharma spent record amounts of money lobbying Congress and federal agencies in 2022 – yet the industry still suffered its biggest defeat with the Inflation Reduction Act becoming law. Open Secrets’ new analysis released this week shows that pharmaceutical and health product companies spent $372 million (more than any other industry) on lobbying. The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent $29.2 million on lobbying, making the trade group the top spender in the industry. Pfizer won the prize for biggest spender of any individual drug company, with $14.9 million on federal lobbying, and Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) was the third largest industry spender at nearly $13.3 million. Big Pharma’s power is no joke. “There are currently 1,834 registered lobbyists working for pharmaceutical and health products, meaning the industry has more than three lobbyists for each member of the Congress.” Despite all this power and spending, patients took on Big Pharma and won in 2022. We’ve seen signs of turmoil within the industry ever since – this week, generics manufacturer Teva quit top industry association PhRMA, making it the second company to leave in the last few months. Politico reported that Teva’s move “follows a rare defeat in a years-long battle against Democrats’ drug pricing measures that included allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.” Looks like Big Pharma’s big lobbying doesn’t stand up to the will of patients. – (Open Secrets, Politico, STAT)
HEADS UP: Following this week’s hearing, we’ll be watching for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s upcoming markup and vote on a package of bipartisan bills that take important steps to address abuses of our patent system that inhibit innovation, block competition, and allow drug corporations to raise prices without restraint.
Have a great weekend, everyone!