May 17, 2021

AbbVie CEO Headed for Capitol Hill to Answer for Indefensible Anti-Competitive  & Price-Hiking Tactics on World’s Best-Selling Drug

On Tuesday, lawmakers in the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform are set to question AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez on the Big Pharma company’s pricing and marketing tactics around blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira. Humira has long drawn the scrutiny and for good reason, as the drug is a prime example of Big Pharma’s anti-competitive and price-gouging behavior.

The hearing is a continuation of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s investigation into the pricing practices of some of the largest Big Pharma companies – including AbbVie, and comes after the committee “obtained internal documents showing the tactics AbbVie uses to suppress competition for Humira,” and threatened to subpoena the company for providing “woefully inadequate” responses to an initial set of written questions.

Lawmakers should use this hearing to build momentum for market-based solutions to crack down on Big Pharma’s egregious practices. In addition to the practices uncovered by the committee’s investigation, additional points on Humira that members should grill Gonzalez on include:

AbbVie’s eye-popping sales for Humira have been driven by a concerted strategy to block competition by building a patent thicket around the drug, and by consistently increasing the price of the drug.

  • Humira was the #1 selling drug in the world with $20.39 billion in sales in 2020.
  • Humira’s price almost doubled from 2012 to 2018 – from about $19,000 to $38,000.
  • AbbVie holds 130 patents on Humira in the United States, blocking competition for up to 39 years.
  • Humira was first approved in 2002, meaning the drug has gone almost 20 years without any biosimilar competition.
  • AbbVie has hiked the price of Humira at least 7.4 percent each of the last five years – including at the start of 2021.
AbbVie’s egregious tactics around Humira come at great expense to American patients and taxpayers.
  • Price Hikes On Humira Were Not Supported By Clinical Evidence And Led To A More Than $1.8 Billion Increase In Unnecessary U.S. Drug Spending. Price hikes on AbbVie’s Humira were not supported by new clinical evidence and accounted for an unnecessary increase in U.S. drug spending of more than $1.8 billion from 2017-2018 according to ICER. (Arlene Weintraub, “AbbVie’s Humira, Roche’s Rituxan top ICER’s list of worst price-hike offenders,” FierceHealthcare, 10/8/2019)
  • The Lack Of Biosimilar Competition To Humira In The U.S. Is Estimated To Cost American Payers And Taxpayers $14.4 Billion. According to I-MAK the lack of biosimilar competition to Humira in the U.S. is “estimated to cost American payers and taxpayers an excess of $14.4 billion.” (“Overpatented, Overpriced,” I-MAK, 10/1/2020)
  • Sales Of Humira Plummeted Over 35 Percent In The First Year The Drug Faced Biosimilar Competition In International Markets. Sales of Humira dropped 35.2 percent in the first year after patent exclusivity expired in international markets — allowing more affordable biosimilar competitors to enter the market and drive down prices. Over the same period, U.S. sales of Humira climbed by 7.7 percent where AbbVie maintains monopoly status on the drug. (Zacks Equity Research, “AbbVie (ABBV) Beats Q2 Earnings and Revenues, Shares Up,” Yahoo Finance, 7/26/19) 
  • AbbVie’s CFO Boasted About The Company’s Patent Strategy In The U.S. In September 2018, AbbVie’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Chase boasted about extending Humira’s U.S. monopoly, even as more affordable competitors were brought to market in Europe, saying, “you’ve seen us execute very nicely with our legal strategy and the settlements around the U.S. events to delay the onset of [competition].” (Bob Herman, “AbbVie Boasts Of Extending Humira’s U.S. Monopoly,” Axios, 9/12/18)

Policymakers must act to crack down on the anti-competitive and price-gouging practices of drug companies like AbbVie.

Learn more about solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.