House Democrats request FTC investigate AbbVie's pricing of Humira

House Democrats request FTC investigate AbbVie's pricing of Humira
© Greg Nash

Three House Democrats called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate drugmaker AbbVie for its pricing of Humira, the best-selling drug in the U.S. and internationally. 

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHouse bill targets US passport backlog DOJ won't prosecute Wilbur Ross after watchdog found he gave false testimony NY progressive Bowman introducing 6B 'Green New Deal for Public Schools' MORE (D-N.Y.), Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHere's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Activists see momentum as three new states legalize marijuana Supreme Court expansion push starts to fizzle MORE (D-N.Y.) and a Judiciary Subcommittee Chair David CicillineDavid CicillineLobbying world Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills Top Democrat leads bipartisan trip to Middle East MORE (D-R.I.) requested a formal inquiry into AbbVie through a letter to acting FTC Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.

The requested probe would examine whether the drugmaker violated the law by delaying competition against its drug Humira, which treats rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, from lower-costing versions of the drug.   

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Maloney announced the call for the investigation at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing ahead of testimony from AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez on drug pricing. 

The Oversight and Reform Committee chair said the committee obtained internal documents showing the drugmaker’s executives projected Humira would face competition from biosimilars starting in 2017.

“But AbbVie used legally questionable tactics to block lower-price biosimilars from reaching American consumers until at least 2023,” she added. “Those tactics made AbbVie a fortune but cost Americans dearly.”

The letter said AbbVie faces no competition against Humira in the U.S. and entered into nine patent settlement agreements with potential competitors, postponing other companies from introducing biosimilar drugs until 2023. In Europe, AbbVie competes with at least six biosimilars to Humira. 

The Democratic lawmakers also point to internal analysis that found if Humira faced competition earlier instead of as expected in 2023, it would have saved the U.S. health care system $19 billion between 2016 and 2023.

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AbbVie did not immediately return a request for comment. 

When Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (D-Vt.) asked if it’s correct the company does “constant analysis” to “anticipate competition that may result in lower prices or price competition,” Gonzalez responded, “We constantly look for ways that we can innovate a product to be able to protect and grow its position by making it a better product for patients.”

The Oversight and Reform Committee also released a staff report on Tuesday that concluded AbbVie inflated prices of Humira and the cancer drug Imbruvica over the years.