PHARMACEUTICAL FRAUD: Big Pharma’s corporate lawlessness cost Americans over $40B in 2019 alone
A recently released collaborative report by two advocate organizations revealed that Big Pharma's aggressive and often unlawful efforts to prevent competition and keep drug prices elevated have cost American patients, insurers and federal health programs more than $40 billion in 2019 alone.
The report, released on May 16 by the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP) and the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge (I-MAK), zeroed in on the pharmaceutical giants' antitrust law violations. According to AELP and I-MAK, these are the main reasons why drug prices in America are skyrocketing at record-high levels compared to those of other rich nations.
"American families are paying far too much for prescription drugs, in large part due to rampant corporate lawlessness," said Erik Peinert, AELP research manager and editor. "This report documents the many ways Big Pharma is manipulating and breaking the law to expand corporate profits at the expense of patients and taxpayers."
The teams looked into 100 top-selling drug products in Medicare Part D (which covers prescription medicines) and Medicaid. The Pharma giants broke antitrust laws and increased Part D gross spending by 14.15 percent or $14.82 billion and increased Medicaid gross drug spending by 9.05 percent or $3.15 billion in 2019. (Related: Analysis: Big Pharma jacked up drug prices 1,186 times in 2022 alone.)
"Assuming that pharmaceutical companies' antitrust violations similarly affected retail brand drug spending, the report estimates that U.S. patients and payers spent an additional $40.07 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2019," the news site Common Dreams reported.
The report highlights 10 illegal anticompetitive schemes that U.S. pharmaceutical companies deploy to juice their profits and keep prices high, including horizontal collusion, patent fraud, no-generics agreements and sham citizen petitions aimed at convincing regulators to delay approval of potential competing drugs.
FTC reacts by suing to stop Amgen's acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics
Shortly after the report's release, the independent agency Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued to stop the biopharmaceutical company Amgen from acquiring Horizon Therapeutics for $27.8 billion.
"Rampant consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry has given powerful companies a pass to exorbitantly hike prescription drug prices, deny patients access to more affordable generics and hamstring innovation in life-saving markets," Holly Vedova, director of FTC's Bureau of Competition, said in the statement.
But according to Bloomberg, analysts are concerned about how the agency's actions would affect drug development and deals.
"Smaller biotech and pharmaceutical companies often lack the money to conduct trials, gain regulatory clearance and get drugs covered by payers, so they pitch their pipeline to larger businesses to get the products across the finish line," Bloomberg reported.
Bloomberg's Intelligence Analyst Marc Engelsgjerd explained: "There would be broad, negative implications for the biotech industry if this deal were ultimately blocked as exiting via acquisition is a standard practice and a common way for larger biopharma to refresh their pipelines."
Meanwhile, Amgen expressed disappointment in the decision but said it remains committed to the acquisition.
"The agency's concerns about pricing are speculative and don't reflect real world competitive dynamics behind providing rare-disease medicines to patients," the drug manufacturer said in an emailed statement. "We have been working cooperatively over the past several months to address the questions raised by the FTC's investigative staff and believe we have overwhelmingly demonstrated that this combination poses no legitimate competitive issues."