The Dark Side of the Patent System: Big Pharma's Monopolising Approach to Weight Loss Drugs

Zara Nwosu
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The Dark Side of the Patent System: Big Pharma's Monopolising Approach to Weight Loss Drugs

The Dark Side of the Patent System: Big Pharma's Monopolising Approach to Weight Loss Drugs

As the global demand for effective weight loss drugs continues to surge, Big Pharma is accused of exploiting the patent system to block competition, inflate prices, and amplify profits. The brands that dominate the market are allegedly using patent thickets to create monopolies on certain weight loss drugs, although these are largely repackaged versions of older medications. This practice is believed to be detrimental to real innovation, with critics arguing it amounts to nothing more than gaming the system.

Patent Thickets: A Barrier to Affordable Medication

A recent analysis published in JAMA Network reveals that brand-name drug manufacturers are using device patents to create patent thickets around weight loss drugs. This strategy has led to a significant increase in the number of device patents for this category of drugs, compared to others. If these patents were removed, it would reduce the duration of expected patent protection and pave the way for more affordable alternatives.

The Federal Trade Commission has challenged more than 100 patents for drug products, and legislation has been proposed to prevent this kind of patent abuse. However, Big Pharma companies continue to enjoy Wall Street-beating earnings after hiking prices on their products.

Monopolistic Tactics and Misinformation

Big Pharma's monopolistic tactics extend beyond patent thickets. The industry is also grappling with a misinformation problem that is damaging reputations and causing stock sell-offs. In spite of this, Big Pharma continues to post record profits, fueling concerns about its impact on consumers and the healthcare industry.

The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) advocates for bipartisan solutions to lower drug prices in America. The campaign emphasizes the need for affordability, transparency, competition, and value, and highlights how Big Pharma is using patent thickets to maintain monopoly pricing power.

Big Pharma's Acquisition Strategy

Big Pharma is also targeting smaller companies with a series of bolt-on acquisitions. Companies like Novartis AG are opting to acquire smaller firms to gain experimental medicines for conditions such as blood cancer. This trend sees pharmaceutical companies shying away from mega-deals, instead focusing on acquisitions to bolster their core business. The most active companies in the past year include Eli Lilly & Co. and Novartis, with seven and six deals respectively.

While the pharmaceutical industry argues that these tactics are necessary for business growth and innovation, critics maintain that the strategies are harmful to the healthcare industry and consumers. As the debate continues, it is clear that the patent system and the practices of Big Pharma will remain under close scrutiny.

Weight Loss Drug Prices