Patents over Patients: The Hidden Pitfalls of Medical Industrial Companies (MICs)

February 19, 2024

In the realm of healthcare, medical industrial companies (MICs) are often hailed as pioneers of innovation and advancement. However, a deeper dive into their practices, especially concerning patent systems, unveils a darker narrative.

The Patent System: A Double-Edged Sword

At its core, the patent system was designed to foster innovation by granting inventors exclusive rights to their creations for a limited time. In the pharmaceutical sector, this translates to a 20-year monopoly on new drugs, barring generic competitors from entering the market. On the surface, this seems like a fair reward for innovation. However, the practice has morphed into a strategic game for many MICs, exploiting loopholes to extend patents beyond their intended lifespan. Such exploitation begs the question of how healthcare can evolve to balance innovation with accessibility.

Patent Prolongation: A Strategy to Stifle Competition

MICs often engage in what's known as 'patent thickets', filing numerous, often minor, variations of a single drug to extend its patent life. This tactic effectively blocks generic alternatives, maintaining high prices for essential medications. For instance, Abbvie's approach with Humira, involving around 225 patents, exemplifies this practice. Such strategies contribute to soaring healthcare costs, with patients bearing the brunt of these inflated prices. The necessity for regulatory frameworks that dismantle barriers to competition and promote genuine innovation becomes increasingly clear.

Pay-for-Delay: Legalized Collusion?

Another concerning practice is 'pay-for-delay' agreements, where brand-name drug manufacturers pay generics to delay their cheaper versions' market entry. While not outright illegal, these arrangements prioritize profits over patient needs, keeping drug prices artificially high. A notable case was the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Federal Trade Commission v. Activis, which provided legal leeway for such agreements, further entrenching this anticompetitive behavior in the industry. This highlights an urgent need for policies that put patient access and affordability at the forefront.

The Real-World Impact: Skyrocketing Drug Prices

The consequences of these patent manipulations are dire. Patients are often left with few affordable options, and the cost of prescription medication continues to grow at an alarming rate. The lack of competition in the pharmaceutical market leads to a monopoly-like situation, where MICs can set exorbitant prices, often without justification.

The Need for a Paradigm Shift

The practices of medical industrial companies in exploiting the patent system cast a shadow on the noble pursuit of medical innovation. It's high time for a paradigm shift, where patient welfare takes precedence over profit margins. Reforms in patent laws and increased scrutiny of MICs' strategies are essential steps towards a more equitable and accessible healthcare system. A move towards a model that prioritizes patient needs over corporate profits could revolutionize healthcare, making it more just and patient-focused. The health and well-being of millions depend on our ability to challenge and change these exploitative practices.


  1. "Patents over Patients: How Pharmaceutical Companies Use the Patent System to Keep Drug Costs High,". Available at
  2. "Consumer Group Says Drugmakers Abuse US Patent System to Keep Prices High,". Available at

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