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WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan questioned a representative from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American (PhRMA), the trade group representing the branded drugs, on Allergan’s anti-competitive attempt to shield its patents from review and keep drug prices high during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing.
Under the first-of-its-kind deal, the Dublin, Ireland-based pharmaceutical company Allergan transferred ownership of its patents on the dry-eye drug Restasis to a Native American tribe in order use the Tribe’s sovereign immunity to shield the Restasis patents from review. Allergan struck the deal in order to protect its market monopoly on the blockbuster drug and continue to reap in profits – which averaged $4 million a day in 2016 alone –at the expense of patients struggling to afford the medication. Under the deal, Allergan paid the Tribe to take ownership of the patents, and Allergan then immediately licenses back the patents, continuing to sell the drug. Allergan has benefitted from a monopoly on Restasis since 2002; this deal represents the latest in a string of bad actors in big pharma that put profits above patients.
Senator Hassan asked a representative from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American (PhRMA) if she believes Allergan’s behavior align with the membership criteria PhRMA put in place in 2017 to “tackle the biggest challenges facing patients.” The Senator pointed out that, following the change, PhRMA expelled 22 member companies, and pressed the trade group to see whether they would hold Allergan to similar standards, asking if Allergan’s deal was consistent with the mission of PhRMA. After the witness attempted to dodge the question, Senator Hassan asked again, “yes or no, is it consistent?” The witness again failed to provide a yes or no answer.