A woman holds an Ozempic pen

A woman holds an Ozempic pen in Warsaw, Poland on November 19, 2023.

(Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Sanders Praises FTC Challenge of 'Junk' Patents for Drugs Including Ozempic

"We can no longer tolerate Novo Nordisk charging the American people $969 for Ozempic when that same exact drug can be purchased for just $155 in Canada and $59 in Germany while it costs less than $5 to manufacture."

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday lauded the Biden administration for expanding its "campaign against pharmaceutical manufacturers' improper or inaccurate listing of patents" for a wide range of drugs including Novo Nordisk's Ozempic.

"Let me commend the Federal Trade Commission, under the leadership of Chair Lina Khan, for taking bold action today against the bogus patents Novo Nordisk has filed to prevent Americans struggling with diabetes from receiving a generic version of Ozempic at a much lower price," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement.

Sanders—who leads the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee—stressed that "Novo Nordisk must not be allowed to make billions in profits by delaying generic competition for Ozempic by unlawfully filing junk patents that have nothing to do with the drug itself, but the injection pen."

"Last week, the HELP Committee, that I chair, launched an investigation into the outrageously high prices Novo Nordisk is charging for Ozempic and Wegovy in the United States," he noted. The former name is used when the patient is taking the medication for Type 2 diabetes and the latter is used when it is prescribed to treat obesity in adults with at least one weight-related comorbidity.

"In my view, we can no longer tolerate Novo Nordisk charging the American people $969 for Ozempic when that same exact drug can be purchased for just $155 in Canada and $59 in Germany while it costs less than $5 to manufacture," said the senator. "I look forward to working with the Biden administration to take on the greed of Novo Nordisk and substantially reduce the price of Ozempic and other prescription drugs."

After disputing more than 100 patents in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Orange Book in November, the FTC on Tuesday sent warning letters to 10 companies and notified the agency that it challenges the accuracy or relevance of over 300 listing across 20 different brand name products.

In addition to Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, the FTC sent letters to Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Covis Pharma, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and some subsidiaries for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and weight loss drugs.

"By filing bogus patent listings, pharma companies block competition and inflate the cost of prescription drugs, forcing Americans to pay sky-high prices for medicines they rely on," said Khan. "By challenging junk patent filings, the FTC is fighting these illegal tactics and making sure that Americans can get timely access to innovative and affordable versions of the medicines they need."

Sanders was not alone in praising the commission and its leader—an appointee of President Joe Biden—for the ongoing efforts to battle Big Pharma's greed.

Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program advocate, Steve Knievel, said that "it's becoming harder for drug corporations to use patent shenanigans to thwart competition, thanks to the FTC and Chair Lina Khan."

"Improperly listing patents in the FDA Orange Book stymies generic competition, which is proven to dramatically lower prescription drug prices, saving patients and the public billions of dollars," he said, echoing Khan. "Today's letter is yet another demonstration from the Biden-Harris administration that Big Pharma business-as-usual monopoly abuses and price gouging will not be tolerated."

"The FDA should supplement FTC's action by clarifying guidelines for patents that can be listed in the Orange Book," he continued, noting that such action has been proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). "The government should also explore using licensing authorities to overcome pharmaceutical monopoly abuses, leaving no option off the table."

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