Why GlaxoSmithKline v Teva is Important for Medication Affordability and “Please Look at My Baby”

SS Tu, A Sarpatwari. NEJM 388: 483-485. A “Method of Use” to Prevent Generic and Biosimilar Market Entry

This article explains how generic and biosimilar companies have tried to navigate the ‘patent gamesmanship’ that brand-name manufacturers have used to delay competition for their products beyond the typical 20 years after an application is filed.

Key points from this article:

  • “The Hatch–Waxman Act, provided a partial solution by explicitly authorizing manufacturers to market generic drugs if they don’t claim any indications protected by active method-of-use patents.3 Such skinny labeling enables generics manufacturers to market their products for older, non–patent-protected indications without infringing later-issued method-of-use patents…43% of products that were the first available generic formulation of a brand-name drug included skinny labels”
  • The article delves into the  GlaxoSmithKline v. Teva case which centers on the overlapping potential indications for the beta-blocker carvedilol. Teva had used skinny labeling to get approval for hypertension (HTN) but was sued by GlaxoSmithKline as carvedilol can be used for congestive heart failure (CHF).
  • Much of the case centers on the paradox that “by law, generics [& biosimilars] manufacturers are required to use very similar labels” as the labeling of original products even though the generic has requested approval for a much narrower approval. In this case, when the Teva generic was used for CHF, GlaxoSmithKline sued since the product was approved for HTN.
  • Another example: Humira has “more than 70 patents on inventions ranging from the active pharmaceutical ingredient and primary indications to the drug’s purity, various formulations, and secondary indications.” For a generic/biosimilar to address all of these (potentially-endless) patents is a huge barrier.
  • Based on this ruling, “brand-name manufacturers can thus now create labels that reference material related to new method-of-use patents and then sue generics manufacturers for patent infringement.”
  • “Lack of action by both the Supreme Court and Congress would allow brand-name drug manufacturers to wield a powerful new weapon to delay or deter the entry of generic and biosimilar drugs, which could have important implications for health care costs and patient welfare.”

My take: My prediction is that these tactics by drug manufacturers, despite their extensive financial connections with lawmakers, will eventually backfire and result in extensive changes to the regulations regarding exclusivity and pricing.

Related blog posts:

In an unrelated article in the same issue, Golda Grinberg provides a first-hand account of how families could benefit by the consideration of hospice in children with extensive medical problems. NEJM 2023; 388: 486-487. Please Look at My Baby — When Clinicians Should Say the Word “Hospice”

“To the surprise, perhaps even shock, of the SICU team, we tossed an option B onto the table: if we truly could not extubate, we suggested, maybe we should skip the trach and transition to comfort care….When presented with a child in whom previous extubation attempts had failed and who was becoming more deconditioned by the day, the SICU team had made the standard, safe, and familiar recommendation for an acute problem: place a trach… It would have been tremendously helpful if, from the beginning, we’d had an open conversation with our son’s medical team and discussed all the options.”

My take: Most parents are happy with their medical decisions for their children. However, it is not uncommon to hear parents say many years later that they wished that they had been informed of the long-term dire outlook of their children and the possibility of deescalation of care in children with severe medical conditions before embarking down the ‘standard’ path.

Related blog posts: