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Insurers, drugmakers celebrate Supreme Court decision in Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee

Ruling ensures patent challengers may make an appeal before a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office board, rather than to the federal court.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

The U.S. Supreme Court building.The U.S. Supreme Court building.

Insurers and generic drug manufacturers are applauding a Supreme Court decision they say will help drive the price of prescription drugs lower.

The case, Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee, hinged on a patent for a speed limit indicator, but America's Health Insurance Plans and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, which jointly filed a brief in the case, said a provision in the ruling upholds inter partes review as critical consumer protection against abusive patent activity in the prescription drug market.

Inter partes review is a procedure for dealing with patents that have already been issued. Patent challengers may make an appeal before a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office board, rather than to the federal court.

[Also: Generic drugs pose specific problems for healthcare providers]

"By protecting and reaffirming the importance of the inter partes review, the Court recognizes the vital need for an efficient patent review process -- one that promotes a competitive, affordable prescription drug market for consumers," said AHIP President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner, and GPA President and CEO Chip Davis, in a joint statement.

Tech companies such as Apple also filed briefs in the case asking the court to preserve the current review system as a way to weed out bad patents, according to Fortune.

The pharmaceutical industry complained the review system is being used by speculators to attack drug patents.

[Also: Medicare plans favoring generic opioids despite abuse statistics, study finds]

The Court's decision comes amid criticism of the skyrocketing price of some prescription drugs. Legislators, providers and payers have said drug costs are the main driver behind increases in the overall cost of healthcare.

AHIP and GPA said in their brief that without the current process, healthcare costs would rise by at least $73 billion between 2018 and 2037, as calculated by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Generic pharmaceuticals fill 88 percent of the prescriptions dispensed in the United States, but consume just 28 percent of the total drug spending, according to the joint statement. 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse

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