Patent, Trademark, And Intellectual Property Representation For Businesses And Corporations

The questionable way generic drug companies get around a patent

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2023 | Intellectual Property

It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not far more, to finance the research and development necessary to create a new drug. Pharmaceutical companies invest in robust intellectual property protections in no small part to prevent their competitors from replicating the drugs that they have invested so much money to develop.

Unfortunately, the ways in which policymakers and federal agencies have interpreted certain rules have led to an abundance of questionable practices by companies that opt to create generic versions of drugs. There are some companies that release generic versions of medications that are still protected by a patent. How is it that drug manufacturers get around existing patents held by other companies?

They engage in questionable reformulations

The easiest way for a business that wants to profit from another company’s medical research is to slightly change the drug and submit a separate patent request. While the exact chemical formula of a new drug may have protection under a patent, the release of information about that molecule can lead to research at competing companies that will result in similar medications.

Companies can potentially piggyback off of the drugs developed by competitors by reformulating a medication currently delivered as a capsule into tablet form, for example. This practice became so widespread that many drug companies now protect against it by submitting several related patent requests for the same drug. The typical new drug patented in recent years may have slightly more than six separate patents attached to it as a result.

Although prior rules established regarding generic drugs and medication-related patents have allowed such questionable practices, there has been increased scrutiny of these actions in recent years, with industry lobbyists pushing lawmakers to consider enacting stricter protections.

Pharmaceutical companies have less of an incentive to develop truly innovative medications if they can just mildly reformulate something released by a competitor, but locking generic drugs out of the market isn’t ideal for consumers either.

Better patent enforcement can help to drive more research

Organizations that are questioning the actions of their competitors can sometimes hold them accountable for patent workarounds in civil court. Discussing how another business may have infringed on an existing patent with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law can help the executives or management at an organization more effectively protect its resources.