Bristol-Myers Squibb was sued by 29 states today for allegedly obtaining fraudulent patents on paclitaxel (otherwise known as Taxol), and then attempting to extend the patent protection of the drug via bogus lawsuits. Honestly, I’m pretty happy to see this lawsuit; the way that BMS has seemed to work every angle and scam to earn more money off of Taxol makes me ill. Consider these data points:

  • paclitaxel was discovered by the Research Triangle Institute in 1967, and the first data was published in 1971; BMS didn’t get its hands on it until 1991.
  • in 1992, after BMS received the exclusive commercial contract for paclitazel, it still had committed no funds to either development or research of the drug; at the same time, BMS was charging over 20 times as much per milligram of drug as it paid to obtain it from Hauser Chemical, the manufacturer who was able to make it.
  • in countries that have allowed the production of generic paclitaxel, production costs have been cited as much as 85 times less than those cited by BMS.
  • when a few U.S. manufacturers began applying to produce generic forms of paclitaxel, BMS hurried through an application to use the drug for Kaposi’s sarcoma, which, under U.S. orphan drug use laws, grants it another seven years as the exclusive seller.

What’s the worst thing about all this? If BMS loses their patent on paclitaxel, they’ll just grease up physicians with freebies and specious data to get them to prescribe the specific BMS formulation. What’s the best thing about all this? The lawsuit cites the Sherman Act’s proscriptions against anticompetitive behavior, which could mean triple damages.