Alex Brill and Angela Banks Dive into the Critical Need for Competition, Big Drug Companies’ Abuse of the Patent System, and Biosimilar Adoption
In case you missed it, Angela Banks, Vice President of Policy for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) hosted Alex Brill, CEO of Matrix Global Advisors (MGA), an economic consulting firm, to discuss competition in the prescription drug marketplace on a new episode of “The Pharmacy Benefit.”
Brill answers the most pressing question everyone is asking at the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, and the hospital: “How can my prescription cost this much?” He dives into the importance of competition to keep drug costs affordable, big drug companies’ anti-competitive tactics, which enable them to keep prices high, and the growing biosimilar market’s influence on some of the most expensive drugs available.
Prescription drug costs and innovation consistently rely on the accessibility of competition. Brill says:
“Competition is one of those powerful tools that allows the market to compete product to product to help bring down prices. And so, my interest in this goes back for a while and includes both drug competition [and] a broader set of policies to help curb overall growth in health care, both for the benefit of the patient but also from a broader fiscal benefit as well.”
For years, big drug companies have recklessly abused the patent system at the expense of patients and families. Using patent thickets, big drug companies extend the exclusivity of their drugs to continue selling at monopolistic prices. Brill shares:
“It’s a strategy that involves creating multiple layers of patents. So multiple patents on others were called secondary patents, not on the core molecule of the drug, but on related aspects of a drug… Innovative drug companies are continuing to mine new patents in an attempt to extend the overall life of that product in the marketplace as a monopolist far beyond the 20 years that you would get for any individual patent. This strategy has been used for a number of products that are large, you know, top selling products, and it makes it difficult or sometimes impossible for the competitors.”
More affordable alternatives, such as generics and biosimilars, are essential to keeping costs down despite big drug companies’ patent abuse. New drugs using the same formulation must enter the market when a patent expires to decrease prices. Generics are on every shelf in every pharmacy across America, which is a good thing but increased biosimilars intake is still needed to help patients’ access more affordable medications. High research and development costs and low name recognition among specialized practitioners make it difficult for biosimilars to reach consumers. Banks elaborated:
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about biosimilars. As you mentioned previously, biosimilars are large molecule drug drugs, which are different from the small molecule drugs that you can just simply duplicate. And so because they’re made from biological substances you’re not going to have an exact match. But any biosimilar is as similar to its reference product as the two batches of the reference product are to one another. I hope that we can one day figure out how to say that in a way that is very plain and clear for people… I think the bottom line is focusing on encouraging competition in the marketplace is the most effective way to lower cost.”
Despite these challenges, the biosimilar market continues to grow. Brill says, “We’re still seeing lots of savings in this new biosimilars market…We’re seeing billions of dollars of savings, and we will see many more times that in the next few years.”
Listen to the full episode HERE.
Learn more about public policy solutions that would promote competition in the prescription drug market and effectively lower prices for patients HERE.
Learn more about the critical role of pharmacy benefit companies and how Big Pharma’s egregious practices are the root cause of high drug prices HERE.
PCMA is the national association representing America’s pharmacy benefit companies. Pharmacy benefit companies are working every day to secure savings, enable better health outcomes, and support access to quality prescription drug coverage for more than 275 million patients. Learn more at www.pcmanet.org