By adding patents, drugmaker keeps cheaper copies of adalimumab out of U.S.

Cheaper copies of AbbVie's adalimumab (Humira) are rolling out across Europe this week after a key European patent for the drug expired Tuesday, but U.S. patients and insurers will have to wait to access less-expensive versions of the world's best-selling drug.

Cheaper copies of AbbVie's adalimumab (Humira) are rolling out across Europe this week after a key European patent for the drug expired Tuesday, but U.S. patients and insurers will have to wait to access less-expensive versions of the world's best-selling drug. AbbVie built up a formidable wall of patents that prevents the developers of biosimilars from launching their products in the United States. Companies have not revealed pricing for the adalimumab biosimilars, but they are expected to sell at a 10% to 25% discount in Europe's biggest drug markets, according to Alexandra Annis, an analyst at health care intelligence firm GlobalData. The main U.S. patent for adalimumab expired in 2016. But AbbVie has obtained more than 100 additional U.S. patents, a number legal experts describe as exceptional for a single drug. The shelf lives of those patents extend into the 2020s and 2030s. AbbVie cited these newer patents, which cover manufacturing processes and other aspects of the drug, in lawsuits to block the two biosimilar versions approved in the United States. Other companies say that has deterred them from bringing biosimilars to market quickly.