Take a minute to read this Bloomberg story about how patent protections can help complex drugs keep their prices high. The story is focused on Humira — the world's best-selling drug, with $16 billion in annual sales — but has broader implications.
What's been happening: Humira is a biologic — a new-ish class of drugs that are much more complicated than older pharmaceuticals, which makes them medically promising and also expensive. The companies that make biologics, including AbbVie with Humira, have started patenting not just the drugs themselves, but multiple processes and components of each product.
In some cases, they'll change those processes and seek a new patent. All of that staves off generics — and their accompanying price cuts — even longer.
Why it matters: The approval process for generic biologics wasn't even created until the ACA, and there aren't a ton of them out there — yet. This is a new set of drugs offering great potential, but also presenting a new set of practical issues that our existing regulatory structures may not be ready to handle.