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Healthcare groups urge Congress to look into Allergan, Mohawk Tribe patent deal

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Healthcare groups urge Congress to look into Allergan, Mohawk Tribe patent deal

A coalition of 10 groups urged congressional leaders to examine the deal Allergan plc struck with St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to protect the patents of its dry eye drug Restasis.

The groups include America's Health Insurance Plans, American Hospital Association and the Association for Accessible Medicines, among others.

In an Oct. 10 letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the groups criticized the deal, stating that "Allergan's scheme may be the first ever 'IP Inversion.'"

Allergan's transfer of patent ownership rights to the native American tribe is a "brazen attempt to circumvent U.S. law and engineer a mechanism to maintain monopolistic high drug prices," the letter stated.

The groups that cover hospitals, health insurers and generic drugmakers urged the leaders to stop this behavior and eliminate barriers to the timely entry of U.S Food and Drug Administration-approved generic copies of expensive drugs.

"This issue deserves the prompt attention of Congress," the industry groups wrote.

In addition, the coalition noted the ongoing concerns about drug costs and said Restasis generates more in annual revenue than the combined revenue of drugs such as Daraprim by Martin Shkreli's company Turing Pharmaceuticals and EpiPen by Mylan NV, which have faced congressional, media, and public focus and scrutiny due to their cost.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., recently introduced a bill that seeks to prevent tribal sovereign immunity from blocking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's review of a patent.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee is also seeking information on the patent deal, which has received criticism from certain U.S. senators.

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders defended the transfer and criticized the inter partes review process, calling it "flawed and broken." In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Saunders said the deal was a way to protect the company's intellectual property from "unfair challenges."