Another brick in the fall: Pharma’s biggest hit is finally granting licenses to its patents

Sept. 6, 2022

Music wouldn’t be quite as interesting without the legal histrionics of rock bands.

In addition to having one of the best-selling albums in U.S. history, Pink Floyd is also known for its litigious drama.

Most of it surrounds a bitter feud between guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour and bassist/vocalist Roger Waters, which resulted in a years-long legal battle about who owns the rights to the name ‘Pink Floyd’ as well as show props like the band’s iconic flying pig.

Gilmour and Waters’ creative differences allegedly peaked during the making of the band’s 11th studio album, “The Wall.” Released in 1979, the album — which has sold over 33 million copies worldwide — was arguably both Pink Floyd’s opus and their demise. The concept record, which included the famed tune, “Another Brick in the Wall,” marked the last time the band’s four long-time core members recorded an album together.

The legal woes over rights and royalties weren’t exclusive to in-band feuds either. Pink Floyd had to take their own record label to court and at one point, the band was even sued by the school children who sang on “Another Brick in the Wall (part 2).”

Popular songs are not unlike blockbuster drugs in that the artists behind them will do everything in their power to protect their creations, which also ensures a continued flow of cash, even from aging hits.

News broke recently that Pink Floyd is selling the copyrights to its songs and recordings — and seeking a whopping $500 million for this back catalogue of hits. The band has been notoriously picky about allowing commercial use of its music (even turning down a huge offer from Instagram), so a sale would mean the band forgoes the right to decide where their music is used — and that we could hear a lot more Floyd in generic scenarios.

In pharma, perhaps no company has been more protective of rights than AbbVie, which has built a patent wall of protection brick by brick around its biggest hit, Humira.

Not only is Humira approved by the FDA in 10 different indications, but AbbVie has filed over 200 patent applications for the drug in the U.S. — 90% of them following Humira’s initial FDA nod back in 2002. By 2025, the drug is predicted to have amassed sales of over $200 billion, solidifying its title of the best-selling drug of all time.

All told, it has been quite a run for Humira — and one that was certainly not without its own legal feuds. Despite facing antitrust allegations over its enforcement of the patent wall surrounding Humira — AbbVie’s defense repeatedly held up in court.

As companies filed with the FDA for biosimilar versions of Humira, AbbVie took them to court for patent infringement. One by one in perfect cadence, AbbVie reached settlements with competing drugmakers, delaying competition.

But the patent song has finally come to an end: The settlements allow adalimumab biosimilars to enter the U.S. market in 2023.

Ultimately, what’s more important than the ballad of Humira’s fight to maintain stardom is its culmination — when biosimilars finally hit the market next year, lower prices should be music to the ears of millions of U.S. patients.

About the Author

Karen P. Langhauser | Chief Content Director, Pharma Manufacturing

Karen currently serves as Pharma Manufacturing's chief content director.

Now having dedicated her entire career to b2b journalism, Karen got her start writing for Food Manufacturing magazine. She made the decision to trade food for drugs in 2013, when she joined Putman Media as the digital content manager for Pharma Manufacturing, later taking the helm on the brand in 2016.

As an award-winning journalist with 20+ years experience writing in the manufacturing space, Karen passionately believes that b2b content does not have to suck. As the content director, her ongoing mission has been to keep Pharma Manufacturing's editorial look, tone and content fresh and accessible.

Karen graduated with honors from Bucknell University, where she majored in English and played Division 1 softball for the Bison. Happily living in NJ's famed Asbury Park, Karen is a retired Garden State Rollergirl, known to the roller derby community as the 'Predator-in-Chief.'