Missouri senator sparring with St. Regis Mohawks over deal to give the tribe a drug patent
Friday, October 6, 2017 - 5:33 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

AKWESASNE -- The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and a Missouri senator are sparring over the tribe’s acquisition of a drug patent.

The tribe, according to an FAQ posted on their website, is now in the “patent business” and holds the patent for Restasis, which is manufactured by the drug company Allergan.

Last month, the tribe and the drug maker announced that Allergan would pay the tribe $13.75 million upon execution of the agreement with the potential for up to $15 million per year in royalties.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, released a statement this week accusing Allergan and the tribe of exploiting a legal loophole where the company is using the tribe’s sovereignty to make it difficult for other companies to create generic versions of the drug.

“This is one of the most brazen and absurd loopholes I’ve ever seen, and it should be illegal,” McCaskill said in her statement. “Given its recent comments regarding corporate responsibility, PhRMA can and should play a role in telling its members that this action isn’t appropriate, and I hope they do that.”

The Mohawk tribe released their own statement on Thursday where they allege she is proposing a bill that singles out the tribe, but allows state universities to acquire patents in a similar manner.

“The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is outraged that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), has introduced legislation that specifically targets Indian tribes, yet exempts state universities and other sovereign governments engaged in the very same IPR process. The double standard that is being introduced by the Senator as a solution for a perceived abuse of the IPR proceedings does nothing to solve the underlying problem. The Tribes [sic] authority is inherent and has been reaffirmed through treaties and legislation from the earliest days of the country,” tribal leaders said in the statement.

The patent is subject to what is known as an “inter partes review” before the congressional Patent Trial & Appeal Board before the tribe can officially take it over.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe spokesman Brendan White said the tribe believes that process is not fair to biopharmaceutical companies and they are seeking to have that dismissed and have it reviewed in federal court.

“The argument we’re making is we want the inter partes review proceedings dismissed before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board and heard in federal court,” White said in a Friday phone interview.

“The Tribe is not seeking to completely avoid review of the validity of the patents. The issue is the Inter Partes Review (IPR) panel that has been set up by Congress for review. This IPR panel is very unfair to companies with valid patents and allows patent trolls and other infringers to void valid patents. The Tribe will file to have its patents review, instead, in federal court where a patent company will be able to use the patent validity rules that have existed for many years to obtain a fair hearing on its patent rights,” the tribe’s online FAQ reads.

Restasis is an immunosuppressant eye drop designed to increase tear production that has been reduced by inflammation of the eye. It is used to treat chronic dry eye that may be caused by the inflammation, according to drugs.com.

McCaskill’s statement is at goo.gl/9jJReT.

The tribe’s statement is at goo.gl/BzMBev.

The tribe’s FAQ on the patent is at goo.gl/2NSAZE.