Allergan Drug Deal with Mohawk Indians May Keep Prices Higher for Consumers, Public Programs

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In case you missed it, the pharmaceutical company. Allergan, has found another unique way to extend patents on its drugs and maintain high profit margins.   Allergan announced recently it has transferred its patents on the very lucrative eye drug, Restasis, to the Mohawk Indian nation at Akwesasne at the US-Canadian border near Massena, New York.   The drug company paid the Mohawks $15 million to handle the patents.  The tribe which runs a casino on the reservation will lease the drug patents back to Allergan.

Allergan transferred the patents to protect them from being reviewed by a patent review board which does not have jurisdiction over patents held by “sovereign” entities.  That is why the company settled on the Mohawk tribe which has another patent agreement with a company unrelated to pharmaceuticals, according to a September 8 New York Times report.  Patent issues are tied up in court proceedings which could negate the Allergan-Mohawk deal according to the Times.

The company said it is trying to avoid having to be subject to the patent board as well as be challenged in courts over its patents. The Restasis patent for its active ingredient expired expired in 2014.     If Allergan and other companies succeed in using sovereign Indian tribes to shield their patents, generic competition could well be delayed and consumers would not benefit from competition. State governments and all public programs could also pay more if they continue to pay for the brand drugs without competitors.

Patients for Affordable Drugs, ( a national advocacy group fighting high drug prices, says that patients without insurance can pay several hundred dollars a month for Restasis and cited some consumers paying $1200 for a three moth prescription.  The organization wrote a letter to PHARMA, the drug company trade group, asking them to stop companies from using Native American nation’s sovereignty to avoid patent review.

It is hard to fault the Mohawk tribe though for being willing to enter into this deal which provides a large sum of revenue unrelated to casino gambling and tobacco sales which tribes have relied on in the past.


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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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