Congressmen Johnson, Issa Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Lower Prescription Prices

April 29, 2021
Press Release
Congressmen work to streamline path for biosimilar drugs to make it to market, consumers with Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Improvements to Patent Litigation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Seeking to lower prescription drug prices by streamlining and making it more cost effective for generic drug makers to get their products to consumers for certain categories of often high-priced drugs called “biologics,” Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA-04) and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA-50) reintroduced the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Improvements to Patent Litigation as an amendment to the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA).

Rep. Johnson, chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, and Ranking Member Issa, filed the legislation to help simplify the process of bringing generic versions of biologics, referred to as “biosimilars,” to the marketplace that should result in lower prices for consumers.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are introducing a Senate companion bill that contains this legislative text.

“There is no question that the costs of brand-name prescription drugs have soared too high, putting affordable healthcare out of reach for many Americans,” said Rep. Johnson, “I am pleased to take steps to address this through introducing the “Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Improvements to Patent Litigation Act of 2021” today with my colleague Representative Issa, at the same time companion legislation is being introduced in the Senate by Senators Blumenthal and Cornyn.  This bipartisan, bicameral legislation should help bring down costs by streamlining the patent litigation pathway for generics to produce alternatives to expensive, brand-name biological drugs, known as biologics, to get to consumers.

“This legislation is a historic reform to our patent system that will reduce drug costs, unleash medical innovation and enhance patient access to the treatments they need and deserve,” said Congressman Issa.

This legislation concerns promoting the development of biosimilars—generic alternatives to brand-name biologics, which are complex, large-molecule drugs created using the latest advances in biotechnology.  Biologics are expensive to develop and bring to market, resulting in high prices for consumers.  In 2018, spending on biologics surpassed $125 billion in the United States, and costs for some biologics can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient, per year. 

In 2010, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act established an important mechanism for getting biosimilars to the market through attempting to streamline patent litigation.  However, that process is not working as effectively as it could, in part because of certain tactics used by brand-name companies to obtain additional patents after the core innovation leading to the drug has already been patented.  These patents can tie up biosimilars in litigation and keep them off the market.

H.R. 2884 takes an important step toward addressing these tactics and, ultimately, lowering drug prices for this particularly costly class of drugs by limiting the number of patents in categories where brand-name manufacturers have historically obtained patents seemingly more in an effort to block competition than promote innovation.

With this streamlining of patent litigation, biosimilars should get to the market more quickly, and consumers should see savings faster.  

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