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Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at drug companies' "evergreening"

This image is a split scree between Sen. Cassidy and Sen. Durbin, who are both standing in suits and talking with one hand raised.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). Photos: Getty Images

Sens. Dick Durbin and Bill Cassidy — a Democrat and a Republican — introduced a new bill yesterday that would tackle evergreening, the process by which branded drug companies extend their monopolies by tacking on additional patents.

Where it stands: While the bill may reduce legal barriers to generic market entry, "someone still has to go through all the trouble and expense to overturn the patent," said Robin Feldman, a professor at UC Hastings.

Background: Evergreening prevents generic competition from coming to market and driving down prices. But the additional patents are often for small changes to the original drug.

What they're saying: "The Cassidy bill is a modest improvement. But it will take much more to move the needle on pharmaceutical competition," Feldman said.

The bottom line: This is even more evidence of how quickly prescription drug politics is changing.

Go deeper: Big Pharma's GOP firewall is weakening