U.S. Senator Tina Smith Pushes Bipartisan Bill to Stop Big Pharma From Keeping Drug Costs High by Unfairly Extending Monopolies

WASHINGTON, D.C. [2/24/21]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a bipartisan measure to stop pharmaceutical manufacturers from claiming new innovations when they make insignificant modifications to their products in order to extend their monopolies and keep drug prices high for consumers.

 Currently, pharmaceutical companies engage in “evergreening,” which allows them to extend their patents for five years when they make minor, insignificant changes to a drug. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to end the practice by only granting these patent exclusivities to drugs that truly have a new chemical entity, but a district court decision invalidated the agency’s ability to block this practice. Sen. Smith’s bipartisan Ensuring Innovation Act would ensure the FDA has the ability to curb this practice.

“High prescription drug prices are forcing too many families to choose between the medications they need and other necessities, like groceries or rent,” said Sen. Smith “In this moment, as we navigate the public health and economic crisis of COVID-19, it’s especially important that we stand up for Americans who are struggling to afford life-saving prescription drugs. The bipartisan Ensuring Innovation Act makes clear that true innovation means taking steps to make medications more effective for Minnesotans and all Americans, and focusing on driving down costs for consumers.”

 “We must lower prescription drug costs. We can do this by increasing competition and closing loopholes which prevent generics from reaching the marketplace. This bill does both,” said Dr. Cassidy.

You can access text of the bill here.

Sen. Smith has made bringing down the high cost of prescription drugs a top priority since coming to the Senate. In 2019, when the skyrocketing price of insulin was having harmful, sometimes fatal, impacts on the ability of some Minnesotans with diabetes to afford their life-saving prescribed doses, Sen. Smith worked with Sen. Cassidy to enact a bipartisan measure that lowers the price of insulin by promoting competition and bringing lower-cost products to market sooner.