Anti-Competitive Strategy Around Brand Name Narcolepsy Medications Blocked Patients from Accessing Alternatives

In case you missed it, on Tuesday, The New York Times reported on anti-competitive tactics used by Jazz Pharmaceuticals on their brand name narcolepsy drugs, Xyrem and Xyvaw, to block patients from accessing alternatives — including alternatives that may be more effective.

The story documents how Jazz gamed the existing patent system and federal regulations meant to protect patient safety to instead extend monopolies on the branded products.

“Jazz took the unusual step of patenting that safety program and then listing those patents in a federal registry known as the Orange Book,” the piece explains. “Under an obscure federal rule, if a rival contested one of the patents in certain circumstances, federal regulators would be barred for more than two years from approving that competitor’s product.”

The treatment “is enormously lucrative, generating more than $13 billion in revenue since Jazz acquired it in 2005. Medicare now spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually for it. The drug accounted for 58 percent of Jazz’s revenue in 2021.”

These profits, in large part, can be accredited to the fact that “the list price of the highest dose of each version is now more than $200,000,” and that “Xyrem is now 19 times as expensive as it was in 2007.”

Patent experts criticized the brand name drug maker’s strategy as violating the intent of the rules the company is using to block competition. “It has very little to do with all of the reasons why we allow the patenting of drugs,” said Michael Carrier, a drug patent expert at Rutgers Law School in Camden, N.J. “A lot of this stuff is just a computer program.”

The current system is “supposed to promote drug safety,” Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told The Times. “That’s not supposed to be a mechanism for extending revenue streams.”

Read the full story in The New York Times HERE.

Read more on the overwhelmingly bipartisan support for solutions to stop Big Pharma’s patent abuse HERE.

Learn more about market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.

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