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CALPIRG study claims drug companies hold back generic meds

Pharmaceutical industry defends practice of making settlement agreements
Tom DurHain

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A study by a public interest group found Californians have overpaid for medications because brand-made drugs were delayed from reaching pharmacies.

The California Public Interest Research Group, CALPIRG, released a report Thursday, citing 20 widely prescribed drugs that have been delayed for years.

Garo Manjikan, of CALPIRG, said major drug companies routinely pay other manufacturers to keep cheaper versions of medications off the market.

Among the medications mentioned are Tamoxifen, Lipitor, Cipro and Provigil.

The pharmaceutical industry defends the practice of making settlement agreements as a "vital aspect of a patent owner’s ability to protect intellectual property."

Critics call the practice "pay-for-delay." 

"Pay-for-delay is sneaky, it’s devious and it’s dishonest," said University of California, Davis medical professor Dr. Michael Wilkes. "I’ve got patients who are at home splitting (drugs) in half, taking drugs every third day, because they can’t afford them."

The CALPIRG study looked at 20 medications used for a wide range of conditions, from cancer and heart disease to depression and bacterial infections.

The study found the drugs were delayed for five years, on average, from being sold as generics.

In one case, a drug was delayed for nine years.

Researchers also found that patients paid on average 10 times more for brand names than the generic equivalents.

Gary Passmore, of the Congress of California Seniors, said he overpaid for a necessary medication for several years.

"I was paying about $240 a month for the name brand, for Lipitor," he said. "I’m now paying $11 a month."

CALPIRG urged passage of bills in the U.S. Senate to outlaw settlement agreements.

"The good news is that there’s two bills in the Senate right now that address the issue of pay-for-delay with bipartisan support," Manjikan said.

Pharmaceutical companies claim halting the patent settlements could hurt consumers.

PhRMA, an industry group, said, "Patent settlements generally permit generic drugs on the market earlier than patent expiration, thereby leading to significant savings for consumers."

The organization also said the settlements eliminate lengthy litigation, which has the potential to indefinitely block market entry by generics.

Wilkes was unsympathetic.

"It’s ridiculous and it does not need to be," he said. "They’ve got their profits."

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