CSRxP Commends Congressional Probe Of Big Pharma Giant’s Anti-Competitive Tactics and Egregious Pricing Practices

Sep 1, 2020

U.S. House Oversight Committee Subpoena of AbbVie Related to Pricing of Blockbuster Cancer, Immunosuppressant Drugs Will Help Hold Industry Accountable

Washington, D.C. – The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) released a statement Tuesday in response to news that the U.S. House Oversight Committee will subpoena Big Pharma giant AbbVie to obtain documents related to the company’s pricing of blockbuster cancer drug Imbruvica and immunosuppressive drug Humira.

“AbbVie has a long track record of gaming the system to block competition and keep prices high in order to boost profits,” said CSRxP executive director Lauren Aronson. “We commend lawmakers’ commitment to getting the facts on AbbVie’s shady tactics and egregious pricing practices in order to help hold Big Pharma accountable.”

“Just this year, AbbVie has hiked the price of its products 50 times, including increasing the price of Humira yet again, despite the drug’s price almost doubling in recent years,” Aronson continued. “As millions of Americans struggle to afford their prescription drugs, Congress must advance bipartisan, market-based solutions to hold drug companies like AbbVie accountable.”

AbbVie is among the most notorious Big Pharma companies that game the system to undermine competition and keep prices high – particularly around its blockbuster cancer drug Imbruvica and arthritis drug Humira.

Imbruvica and Humira Demonstrate How AbbVie Abuses The Patent System To Increase Profits And Keep Drug Prices High For Millions Of American Patients.

  • The Company’s Blockbuster Cancer Drug Imbruvica Costs An Eye-Popping $180,000 Per Year.(Mark DeSaulnier, “A Tiny Pill Saved My Life, But At $180,000 A Year,” San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/19)
  • Spending On Imbruvica Is Expected To Exceed $41 Billion From 2027-2036 Thanks To An Anti-Competitive Patent Scheme Which Has Already Extended The Monopoly On The Cancer Drug By Over Nine Years. “Since the first patent application was filed in 2006, the drug has been the subject of a blizzard of applications that has yielded no less than 88 patents In fact, more than half of the 165 applications were filed after Food and Drug Administration approval in 2013, and most of those cover different indications or formulations, not the active ingredient in the drug itself. The combined effect means that, even though the main patent on medication expires in 2026, lower-cost generic competition will not appear for nearly 10 more years. In all, patent exclusivity on Imbruvica, which has a $174,000 list price, will run at least 29 years, according to the analysis by Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge, or I-MAK, a nonprofit that studies drug patents. Consequently, the slow but steady stream of patent filings for Imbruvica — some of which represent only incremental changes — illustrates a loophole in the U.S. patent system that can dent American pocketbooks, according to the nonprofit. And Imbruvica raises questions about whether patent standards should be retooled to better reward true innovation.” (Ed Silverman, “AbbVie uses dozens of patents to ward off competition for a pricey cancer medicine” STAT News, 7/15/20)
  • Humira “Continues To Generate More U.S. Revenue Than Any Other Drug, Due To AbbVie Extending U.S. Patents And Consequently Retaining Higher U.S. Prices.” Global sales of the drug reached $19.9 billion in 2018, marking an 8.2 percent increase from 2017. AbbVie currently holds over 130 patents on Humira in the United States, blocking competition for up to 39 years. (Mike Allen, “America’s 10 Most Lucrative Drugs,” Axios, 8/12/20)
  • AbbVie Has Filed 247 Patent Applications On Humira In The U.S. With The Aim Of Delaying Competition For 39 Years. “AbbVie’s pricing practices are protected by an aggressive evergreening patent strategy to extend the life cycle of Humira in order to deliberately delay competition. The overpatenting of Humira and other medicines puts a strain not only America’s public health care budgets, but also undermines the health and financial well-being of individuals and families throughout the country.” (“Overpatented, Overpriced: Special Humira Edition,” I-MAK, 9/17)
  • AbbVie Increased Its $20 Billion Blockbuster Drug Humira By 6.2 Percent Just A Couple Of Months After Settling Lawsuits To Keep Generics Off The Market Until 2023. “AbbVie increased by 6.2 percent the list price of its blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira, which is on pace to record about $20 billion in sales in 2018.” (Michael Erman, “Drug Companies Greet 2019 With U.S. Price Hikes,” Reuters, 1/2/19)
  • Originally Set To Lose Patent Protection In 2014, AbbVie Has More Than Doubled The Span Under Which Its Blockbuster Humira Is Covered, With The Latest Expiration Now In 2034. “The company listed 22 patents for various diseases or methods of treatment, 14 on the drug’s formulation, 24 on its manufacturing practices, and 15 ‘other’ patents. The latest expiration date is 2034 – providing more than double the protection span a drug such as Humira might normally expect.” (Cynthia Koons, “This Shield Of Patents Protects The World’s Best-Selling Drug,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/7/17)