Drug Patent Bill Could Cut The Federal Deficit By $3B, Analysts Predict

A popular, bipartisan drug patent bill could narrow federal budget deficits by a total of about $3 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

CBO analysts reported last week that the new version of the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act bill could cut spending by $2.4 billion over the period from 2024 through 2034 and increase federal revenue by $585 million over that same period.

The bill would prohibit drug manufacturers from using aggressive legal maneuvers to keep drugs covered by patents and avoid letting new generic competitors lower the cost.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced the bill together with four Republican co-sponsors and four Republican co-sponsors.

This Congress is the 118th, and a Congress lasts for two years. Cornyn began introducing earlier versions of the current bill in the 116th Congress.

The CBO has been giving the bill better deficit-fighting scores over time. It predicted the version released in 2019 would save just $507 million, and that the version saved in 2021 would save $1.1 billion. The CBO expects the federal debt to be $16 trillion in 2034, meaning that even $3 billion in savings could amount to far less than 0.1% of the 2023 federal debt.

Patents on drugs typically last 20 years from the time a patent application is filed.

The Cornyn bill would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to rein in prescription drug “ever greening” or “patent hopping” — moves to replace old drugs that are coming off patent with freshly patented drugs.

Because the FTC is involved, the Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the bill.

The committee approved the bill by a voice vote in February 2023. Members talked about the patent hopping at a hearing in May.

Drug wholesalers have tried to fight patent hopping and other aggressive patent defense strategies by suing drug makers over allegations that aggressive efforts to keep generic drugs off the market violate federal antitrust laws.


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