The State of Minnesota has recently released a 94 page report on drug pricing and access titled, “Report of Minnesota Attorney General’sAdvisory Task Force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Prices.” The Executive Summary of the very thorough report points to several problems leading to the high cost of pharmaceuticals in the United States and the state of Minnesota, including 1) product hopping; 2) abuse of the patent system, including the creation of patent thickets (with Humira as the example); 3) pharmaceutical benefit manager practices and a lack of transparency with respect to pricing; and 4) pharmaceutical company practices with respect to direct marketing to consumers and price discounts to consumers for selecting brand name drugs. The report has many recommendations, including the formation of a commission to investigate and deal with pharmaceutical pricing and other issues; importation of four important drugs from a vendor (insulin, epipens, Truvada and Naloxon); create price gouging legislation; “Strengthen Minnesota’s consumer fraud laws;” “Enact a state anti-kick back law;” “Strengthen Minnesota’s antitrust laws;” advocate for change to federal patent and data exclusivity laws; heavily regulate pharmaceutical benefit managers; ensure greater transparency; more utilization of the federal 340B drug pricing program; and improved usage of bulk purchasing. The report also includes action steps for the various recommendations. The report details the impact of high drug prices on citizens of Minnesota as well as case studies of drug prices that are “excessive.”
I am sure the issue regarding the cost of healthcare and pharmaceuticals in the United States will receive a lot of attention in U.S. presidential race this year. Last April, Chris Holman and I co-organized a conference at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, in Sacramento, California, on pharmaceutical IP and pricing that tackled the issue. The conference website is available, here. We may offer a follow-up conference next year after the presidential election. If you have an interest in attending or participating, please let me know.