FTC Workshop Can Highlight How Brand Name Drug Companies Employ Anti-Competitive Tactics to Game the System — Driven by Focus on Profits Over People

This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is scheduled to host a two-day workshop titled, “The Future of Pharmaceuticals: Examining the Analysis of Pharmaceutical Mergers,” where experts from the FTC and U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division are set to examine “new approaches to enforcing the antitrust laws in the pharmaceutical industry” as well as “how conduct by pharmaceutical companies affects merger analysis.”

The workshop provides an opportunity to highlight how Big Pharma games the system to undermine competition from more affordable alternatives to brand name prescription drugs — including through mergers targeting blockbuster drugs and a wide array of anti-competitive tactics.

Pandemic Merger & Acquisition (M&A) Activity

In several other recent blockbuster M&A deals, Big Pharma companies with histories of price-gouging and engaging in anti-competitive tactics to undermine more affordable alternatives have joined forces.

AstraZeneca & Alexion

In 2020, Big Pharma giant AstraZeneca announced plans to acquire rare disease drug maker Alexion Pharmaceuticals in a $39 billion merger. Both companies are notorious for launching price hikes and price-gouging consumers while engaging in anti-competitive tactics that block competition. Here are just a few examples of AstraZeneca’s egregious behavior:

Alexion has a history of price-gouging products, developed with the help of public investment, used for the treatment of rare diseases:

AbbVie & Allergan

In another blockbuster Big Pharma M&A deal, in 2019, Big Pharma giant AbbVie announced plans to acquire drug maker Allergan in a $63 billion merger. Here are a few examples of how the two companies have engaged in anti-competitive tactics and price-gouged consumers:

Leading up to the deal, Allergan had been steadily increasing prices of their drugs, too, while abusing the patent system keep prices high:

The deals are only a glimpse at the breadth of the industry’s tactics that limit competition and drive prices higher for consumers. Over time, Big Pharma’s anti-competitive tactics have cost consumers and taxpayers big.

Anti-Competitive Practices Cost Consumers Big

Big Pharma’s anti-competitive behavior, including tactics like product hopping and patent-thicketing, delay more affordable alternatives from coming to market and cost patients and our health care system billions of dollars. The American public faces unsustainable costs because of this anti-competitive behavior.

Patent Abuse Delays Access to Lower Cost Alternatives

A 2021 report from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform found that companies responsible for just 12 of the best-selling drugs in Medicare obtained more than 600 patents, effectively blocking competition from more affordable alternatives for decades.

In addition, a September 2020 study from Avik Roy and Gregg Girvan of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP) found that ballooning spending on U.S. prescription drugs is being particularly driven by Big Pharma’s abuse of the patent system to undermine biologic and biosimilar competition.

Business As Usual for Big Pharma

Unfortunately, engaging in anti-competitive tactics is a time-honored tradition for Big Pharma. Pharmaceutical companies abuse the patent system by deploying a host of other anti-competitive tactics – including ploys like co-pay coupons, ‘charitable’ kickback schemes and patent abuse – to prevent patients from accessing more affordable alternatives:

Read more about how Big Pharma’s patent abuse blocks competition, harms consumers and contributes to ballooning taxpayer spending HERE.

Read more on why Big Pharma’s tired argument that innovation justifies their out-of-control prices doesn’t hold up to scrutiny HERE.

Read more on market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.

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