FTC, Amgen Break Off Settlement Talks Over Horizon Deal

Pictured: U.S. FTC building in Washington, DC/iStock, bpperry

Pictured: U.S. FTC building in Washington, DC/iStock, bpperry

Settlement talks have ended between the Federal Trade Commission and Amgen over the latter’s proposed acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics, according to a report by Bloomberg.

In a short scheduling hearing Wednesday at an in-house court, the FTC’s lawyer Nathan Brenner confirmed that the two camps had previously been engaged in settlement discussions, though these have now ended. Brenner added, however, that the agency remains “open to hearing proposals.”

Amgen’s lawyer, David Marriott, also acknowledged these earlier negotiations but maintained that the company’s acquisition of Horizon has “no anticompetitive effect” that it needs to resolve.

The FTC first filed its lawsuit in May 2023, seeking to block Amgen’s planned multibillion buyout of rare disease leader Horizon Therapeutics. The companies announced the acquisition in December 2022, which, at an initial value of $26.4 billion, was easily the industry’s biggest deal last year.

Citing “rampant consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry,” Holly Vedova, director of the FTC Bureau of Competition said in a press statement alongside the lawsuit that the Amgen-Horizon deal could lead to higher prescription drug prices and block the entry of more affordable generics into the market.

In particular, the regulatory agency raised concerns about “cross-market bundles or bundled rebates.” Amgen, the FTC cautioned, could use the strong market position of its blockbuster medicines to ensure that Horizon’s rare disease assets Tepezza (teprotumumab-trbw) and Krystexxa (pegloticase) would have favorable formulary placements.

Last month, six U.S. states—California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Washington and Wisconsin—joined the FTC’s legal challenge, asking the courts to issue a preliminary injunction against the deal until the agency has filed an administrative complaint and a verdict has been reached.

Amgen has called the FTC’s bundling concerns as “entirely speculative,” pointing out that its drug portfolio addresses generally different therapeutic spaces as that of Horizon’s. “There are no overlaps of competitive concern,” the company wrote in a statement following the FTC’s lawsuit.

The companies remain determined to push through with the deal. Last month, Amgen and Horizon filed a countersuit against the FTC, claiming that the regulator’s efforts to block the buyout go against the U.S. Constitution, particularly as it seeks to hold hearings in an administrative court instead of in an Article III court.

Amgen and Horizon are still aiming to close the deal by the end of the year, according to a Reuters report.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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