While plenty of folks are still digging through what the new health care reform (really medical insurance reform) law really
means (and it's likely not what you hear most of the TV pundits talking about), it's unfortunate to hear that the provision to ban "pay for delay" schemes from pharma companies was removed
. We talked about these sneaky deals
last year. Basically, big pharma companies threaten (and often sue) the makers of generic drugs, just before a drug is about to go off patent. There is no actual patent infringement as the basis of the lawsuit, but the lawsuit acts as a negotiating ploy, with part of the "settlement" being an agreement from the generic drug maker not to enter the market
. It's a blatantly anti-competitive move. Basically, the pharma companies leverage their gov't granted monopoly to build up a bunch of cash, which they can then use to pay off potential competitors in order to keep that monopoly for years past the expiration of the patent.
It makes drugs much more expensive for everyone while being a clearly anti-competitive practice. So it seemed like a good thing that the health care reform bill was supposed to ban it. Until... of course... it was removed days before the bill was approved. No matter what your take is on health care reform, it's hard to see any reason to allow this kind of practice to continue, and even if it wasn't included in the the health care reform bill, and isn't included in the current patent reform bill, it seems like there's no reason the FTC can't just step in and make the point that this is blatantly anti-competitive. The FTC knows
this is a problem -- and has even said that these sorts of deals have cost US citizens $3.5 billion per year
in higher drug costs.