Under the leadership of an aggressive opponent of anti-competitive business practices, the Federal Trade Commission is moving against drug companies and industry middlemen as part of the Biden administration’s push for lower drug prices at the pharmacy counter.
On May 16, the FTC sued to block the merger of drugmakers Amgen and Horizon Therapeutics, saying the tangled web of drug industry deal-making would enable Amgen to leverage the monopoly power of two top Horizon drugs that have no rivals.
In its lawsuit, the FTC said that if it allowed Amgen’s $27.8 billion purchase to go through, Amgen could pressure the companies that manage access to prescription drugs — pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs — to boost the two extremely expensive Horizon products in a way that would inhibit any competition.
The suit, the first time since 2009 that the FTC has tried to block a drug company merger, reflects Chair Lina Khan’s strong interest in antitrust action. In announcing the suit, the agency said that by fighting monopoly powers it aimed to tame prices and improve patients’ access to cheaper products.
FTC’s action is a “shot across the bow for the pharmaceutical industry,” said Robin Feldman, a professor and drug industry expert at the University of California College of the Law-San Francisco. David Balto, a former FTC official and attorney who fought the 2019 Bristol-Myers Squibb-Celgene and 2020 AbbVie-Allergan mergers, said FTC’s action was long overdue.
The Horizon-Amgen merger would “cost consumers in higher prices, less choice, and innovation,” he said. “The merger would have given Amgen even more tools to exploit consumers and harm competition.”
The FTC also announced an expansion of a yearlong investigation …
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