Senators seek probe of patent transfers to tribe

Four US senators have asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into a deal drugmaker Allergan Plc struck with New York’s Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to protect some of its patents from generic challenge, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Reuters reported that Democrats Maggie Hassan, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey and Richard Blumenthal in the letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday called Allergan’s deal “a blatantly anti-competitive attempt to shield its patents from review and keep drug prices high.”

Allergan said on September 8 that it was transferring patents on its dry eye medication Restasis to the Native American tribe, which agreed to exclusively license them back to the company in exchange for ongoing payments.

Allergan told Reuters it met with the staffs of Senators Brown and Hassan last week to provide detailed briefings on the agreement.

“We would welcome the opportunity to provide additional briefings for these Senators, as well as the opportunity to brief Senators Casey and Blumenthal, and answer any questions they may have,” Allergan told Reuters..

Allergan and the tribe have said that the tribe’s sovereign status shields the patents from review by the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board.