The US Supreme Court has ruled that will potentially save Americans billions on prescription medication. Sometimes, brand-name pharmaceutical companies give generic drug makers a slice of the profits in order to delay shipping cheaper drugs to the market, forcing Americans to pay for the pricier drugs. Although it may trouble some to consider that sick human beings are used to drive profit, the Monday (June 17) ruling comes down as a prevention of monopoly. Reuters reports:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that regulators can challenge the deals brand-name drug companies make with generic rivals that delay cheaper products from going on the market, deals that regulators say boost total costs of the medicines by billions of dollars. In a 5-3 vote, with Justice Samuel Alito recused, the court said the Federal Trade Commission can challenge a deal it was examining. But the court declined the FTC’s request to declare the deals to be presumed to be illegal.
These deals, while previously legally acceptable, are certainly morally reprehensible. Regulators call them “pay-for-delay,” and it happens when name brand companies settle patent disputes by agreeing to give the other company (generic drug companies) a cut of the profits to simply take the other drug off the market for a length of time, sometimes until the patent is removed several years later. This keeps drugs at the higher, name-brand cost and ends up raking in billions for the pharmaceutical industry at the cost of the people needing those medications.
Reuters goes on to report the following majority opinion:
In his opinion for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the deals have the potential to hurt competition.
“Settlement on the terms said by the FTC to be at issue here – payment in return for staying out of the market – simply keeps prices at patentee-set levels, potentially reducing the full patent-related $500 million monopoly return while dividing that return between the challenged patentee and the patent challenger,” Breyer wrote. “The patentee and the challenger gain; and the consumer loses.”
That’s the huge elephant in the room when it comes to the healthcare industry — sick people are profitable. Corporations fighting to protect deals like the sort in this article are further proving that they don’t have the ethics to handle things relating to health. We need a system that helps sick people, not one that exploits them.