Patents for wonderful life-saving medications last for 20 years. After then, other firms can copy them with no royalty payment.

Drug prices to plummet in wave of expiring patents

By LINDA A. JOHNSON, AP Business Writer – 1 day ago

The cost of prescription medicines used by millions of people every day is about to plummet.

The next 14 months will bring generic versions of seven of the world’s 20 best-selling drugs, including the top two: cholesterol fighter Lipitor and blood thinner Plavix.

The magnitude of this wave of expiring drugs patents is unprecedented. Between now and 2016, blockbusters with about $255 billion in global annual sales will go off patent, notes EvaluatePharma Ltd., a London research firm. Generic competition will decimate sales of the brand-name drugs and slash the cost to patients and companies that provide health benefits.

So why do mere books, songs, and movies — which don’t save anybody’s life — get protection for so much longer, to the point where copying them is treated as a federal crime?