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Four Democratic lawmakers have asked the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate a highly unusual deal in which Allergan recently sold half a dozen patents for the Restasis eye drops to the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.

The company reached the deal because the tribe has sovereignty in the U.S., which means the Mohawks are immune from certain legal claims that generic drug makers typically use to challenge patents held by their brand-name rivals. Such a deal has never been undertaken previously by a drug maker.

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  • Hi Ed. There is an important legal distinction here. There is sovereign immunity granted to the states by the 11th Amendment, which pretty much makes it immutable. On the other hand Tribal immunity is granted by an Act of Congress, therefore can also be revoked by another Act of Congress. These kinds of activities by the Mohawks would certainly qualify them for revocation.

    • Hi Pharmvet1,

      Yes, as I’ve noted in previous coverage, Congress could revoke or alter the status, but given this tribal revenue is a politically sensitive issue, it is not clear whether it would be pursued.

      Perhaps some lawmaker might introduce a bill, but I’m not certain such an effort would gain any traction, unless in the interim, this deal or another like it is considered to be a sham transaction, which is another discussion entirely.

      All best,
      ed at pharmalot

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