- Step 1: Create revolutionary medicine.
- Step 2: Patent the medicine to collect in the profits.
- Step 3: When the patent expires, combine the drug with another in order to extend its patent life and keep profits high.
Most people believe that Step 1 and 2 are ok. The companies who make revolutionary drugs should be compensated for their R&D expenditures. But simply repackaging their products to extend patent life? This seems extremely inefficient.
This is exactly what GlaxoSmithKline did with its migraine pill Imitrex, whose U.S. patent ran out in February. It combined Imitrex with naproxen (a non-prescription anti-inflammatory drug) to form a new patented medicine: Treximet.
This time, doctors and insurers may be wising up. Bloomberg reports:
…doctors and insurers object to the cost, calling the pill no better than the two generic drugs it combines…The expense of those two generics together may soon fall to $5 a dose, said Time Heady, chief of the pharmaceutical solutions unit for UnitedHealth Group Inc., which refuses to pay for Treximet on most of its plans…”There are instances where drugs are being brought to market that really aren’t different or offering any real benefit from a clinical or cost perspective. In those instances, it makes sense not to cover the drug at all.”
No sense at all.