WASHINGTON — If there was any hope that Congress might overhaul the way this country doles out the patents drug makers get for their new medicines as part of its efforts to drive down drug costs, Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue issue quashed it.

The hearing began with an admonition from the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), that Congress would “do something on patents and prescription drugs this year.” But lawmakers seemed more eager to talk Tuesday about peripheral tweaks to the patent system — or issues entirely unrelated to patents — than about the kind of fundamental reforms that would make it harder for drug makers to file hundreds of patents to shield an expensive drug from competition.

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  • Trying to limit the number of patents granted in one approach. But putting compulsory licenses on the table is another.

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