Market Skeptical Following Sen. Warren's Antitrust Allegations

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The market appears indifferent to a letter sent by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to FTC commissioners Wednesday voicing concerns about Amgen and Indivior’s plans to buy Horizon Pharmaceuticals and Opiant Pharmaceuticals, respectively. 

Citing the companies’ “records of anti-competitive business practices,” Warren’s chief concern was how the acquisitions would “threaten competition, reduce innovation or increase costs for American families.”

In response, Jessica Akopyan, head of global media relations at Amgen, told BioSpace Friday that the company’s leadership disagrees with Warren’s characterization.

“We have been working cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and remain confident there are no anti-competitive aspects of this transaction,” Akopyan said. “Amgen’s commercial, medical and manufacturing capabilities will make it possible for Horizon’s life-changing medicines to reach many more seriously ill patients.”

The market appears to be of a similar mind as shares of Horizon and Opiant were down just 1.6% and 2% as of market open Friday.

In her letter, Warren warned of the dangers of “extensive consolidation,” stating that between 1995 and 2015, the 60 “most dominant” pharmaceutical companies consolidated into 10 firms.

Though she conceded the Inflation Reduction Act contained provisions to control drug prices, Warren argued additional measures could be taken, including “robust FTC enforcement of antitrust law.” 

A Rocky History

In November, Indivior agreed to acquire opioid overdose therapy maker Opiant for $145 million, which Warren said is problematic given the company’s legal trouble.

When Indivior and its former parent company knew the patent on their opioid addiction treatment Suboxone was set to expire, the companies illegally maintained a monopoly over the drug by marketing a dissolvable film version of the drug as safer when it was not. 

Ultimately, Indivior was ordered to pay $60 million in a settlement with the FTC and $2 billion in fines due to separate cases with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In a statement released Thursday regarding the acquisition, Indivior did not directly reference Warren’s claims. Instead, Nina DeLorenzo, chief global impact officer, emphasized the positive effect of the treatment.

“Opiant’s nalmefene rescue therapy medication, which is currently not approved by the FDA, will be an important additional option to help those who suffer an opioid overdose…together, our companies can fight this problem,” DeLorenzo said.

Warren also stated that Amgen and Horizon have engaged in “brazen price increases on drugs that face little or no competition.” Warren cited what she called a “most egregious price hike” on Amgen’s drug Enbrel as evidence of this.

After singling out Amgen and Indivior, Warren cited other recent acquisitions as proof of their negative effect on patients. Specifically, she stated Merck’s recent buyout of Imago BioSciences shows big pharma companies are prioritizing acquisitions over innovation. 

An Ongoing Battle

To back up her claims about Amgen and Indivior, Warren highlighted other recent acquisitions she viewed as harmful. 

Specifically, she stated Merck’s buyout of Imago BioSciences in December shows big pharma companies are prioritizing acquisitions over innovation. 

She also highlighted AbbVie’s $63 billion buyout of Allergan in 2019. As AbbVie was set to lose patent protection over Humira in 2023, she argued the acquisition allowed the company to maintain its monopoly on the drug and add “almost 1.4 billion dollars to costs for U.S. patients between 2019 and 2020.” 

Wednesday’s missive follows another letter Warren wrote with 24 other senators asking HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra to take action to lower the price of Xtandi (enzalutamide), a prostate cancer therapeutic. This was Warren’s sixth letter in the past two years urging HHS to establish march-in rights for Xtandi.

Warren’s plight is not only with biopharma but also with large mergers. In March, she introduced the "Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act" that would block deals worth more than $5B or lead to high market shares.

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