Prof. Charles Silver, the Roy W. and Eugenia C. McDonald Endowed Chair in Civil Procedure and the Co-Director of the Center on Lawyers, Civil Justice and the Media, published a new opinion piece in the March 3 Dallas News, the online platform of the Dallas Morning News. In it, he tackles the real reasons prescription drugs cost so much in America: patents and monopolies.
“Monopolies are the biggest reason that drug prices in the U.S. are so high. Manufacturers acquire them in a host of ways. Some are legal. Others straddle the line. The legal means include obtaining patents on new drugs, proving that orphan drugs and unapproved drugs work, and using tweaks such as pill coatings, timed-release formulas and redesigned delivery systems to make patents last longer. The shady means include collusive litigation settlements that stave off generic entry for years, parallel pricing by manufacturers of similar drugs that should be competing, and informal agreements among manufacturers not to invade each other’s turf.
“Monopolies explain why pharma companies can raise prices on existing medications, something they routinely do. Car makers can’t charge more for last year’s models. Neither can companies that make computers, cellphones, or flat screen TVs. But pharma companies raise prices on existing drugs year after year. Being the sole suppliers, they can set prices as high as they like knowing that they have Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers and consumers over a barrel.”