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February 2018

Selling Patents to Indian Tribes to Delay the Market Entry of Generic Drugs

Author Affiliations
  • 1Stanford Law School, Stanford, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(2):179-180. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.7463

In September 2017, Allergan Plc announced that it had transferred the 6 patents for cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion (Restasis), its blockbuster drug for chronic dry eye, to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, a federally recognized Indian tribe of about 15 000 members in rural upstate New York with a $50 million annual budget. The Tribe received $13.75 million initially and is eligible for $15 million in annual royalties—a small fraction of the roughly $1.5 billion in annual US revenues for Restasis. The deal allows the Tribe, as the patents’ legal owner, to assert what is known as sovereign immunity in a proceeding at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) where Mylan Pharmaceuticals, a generics manufacturer, is challenging the patents.

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