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Senator Baldwin Demands Big Pharma Stop Unfair Practices that Reduce Competition, Raise Prices for Inhalers

Action comes after Baldwin helped launch investigation into efforts by companies to manipulate the price of asthma inhalers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) called on the four biggest inhaler companies to stop unfairly locking out generics from the market and driving up the cost of inhalers for Americans. Specifically, in letters to AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Teva, Senator Baldwin called on the companies to stop improperly listing patents for inhalers in the Orange Book and stifling competition.  

The Orange Book contains patent and exclusivity information for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs. When a pharmaceutical company lists a patent in the Orange Book, it can block the introduction of competing drug products for up to 30 months, including lower-cost generic alternatives. However, because listing patents in the Orange Book may delay competition for associated products, drug companies are incentivized to list as many associated patents as possible in an attempt to protect their exclusivity and delay competition that may force them to lower their prices.

“Innovative products deserve protection but, for too long, large corporations have bent the rules to unfairly protect themselves from competition and Wisconsinites have paid the price,” wrote Senator Baldwin in the letters. “While drug companies are required to list certain patents in the Orange Book, bad actors can exploit this process to inappropriately deter competition and generic drug development, leading to fewer treatment options and higher prices for consumers.”

Senator Baldwin concluded, “The price of anticompetitive behavior is ultimately paid by Wisconsinites, through higher costs, fewer treatments, and worse health. It must stop.”

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a policy statement making clear that inappropriate patent listing can be an unfair and unlawful method of competition. In November, the FTC challenged ten pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca, GSK, Teva, and Boehringer Ingelheim for improperly or inaccurately listing more than 100 patents in the Orange Book.

Despite these warnings, the inhaler companies have not yet removed all of the inaccurate or inappropriately listed patents from the Orange Book. In the letters sent today, Senator Baldwin called on the companies to heed the FTC’s warning, and immediately remove these patents from the Orange Book to restore fair competition for Wisconsinites who rely on inhalers to stay well.

AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GSK, and Teva – the four biggest manufacturers of inhalers sold in the United States – charge between $200 and $600 each for inhaler products that are typically purchased monthly. In Wisconsin, more than 500,000 people have asthma and nearly 6 percent of the population is estimated to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

These letters come on the heels of Senator Baldwin launching an investigation into the high prices these same big drug companies charge for inhalers that 25 million Americans with asthma and 16 million Americans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) rely on to breathe.

Read letter to AstraZeneca here.

Read letter to Boehringer Ingelheim here.

Read letter to GSK here.

Read letter to Teva here.