As part of the research and development process, a pharmaceutical company will obtain a patent that gives it exclusive rights to manufacture, market and profit from a drug. Once the patent expires, other drug companies are able to manufacture and sell the drug under a generic name. Although the average term of a patent is approximately 20 years from the time the company files an application, there are situations where the terms of the patent can be extended or multiple patents may be granted.
A controversy has surrounded the makers of EpiPen, as the epinephrine pen injector has recently spiked in price. Currently, Mylan holds a total of four patents for the EpiPen, which keeps it out of the hands of any competing companies. Since there are no other companies manufacturing the drug, consumers are forced to pay the higher price for the life-saving medication. Some people are questioning, however, the validity of the patents and whether Mylan is able to create such a dramatic shift in pricing.
Mylan did not apply for and obtain all four patents itself, but inherited a few of the patents when it acquired the company. One patent was successful in keeping drug manufacturer Teva from replicating the drug’s injector mechanism when developing an epinephrine pen. The current manufacturer of EpiPen is looking to release a new generic of the epinephrine pen within the next few years.
People who feel as though they may have a case regarding patent infringement or simply wish to apply for a patent, may want to speak with an attorney who has experience in these types of issues.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Behind the EpiPen controversy are questions about patents granted to drugmaker,” Samantha Liss, Sept. 4, 2016.