Unions call on US antitrust regulators to block $63 billion ‘AbbVieGan’ merger

US antitrust authorities are coming under pressure from consumer groups and unions to block the proposed $63 billion merger of AbbVie and Allergan, according to a press report.

Reuters reported that around a dozen advocacy groups and unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and Public Citizen, have written to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging it to consider blocking the deal.

Citing a letter also from Consumer Action and various unions, Reuters said the signatories are concerned that the merger would create the fourth largest pharma company in the world.

This would create a powerful force at a time of rising drug prices and widespread concern about the impact of medicine prices on US citizens, who may have to cover all or some of their prescription costs from their own pockets depending on their insurance arrangements.

A four-week supply of the inflammatory diseases drug Humira (adalimumab) costs more than $60,000 a year, with sales reaching $20 billion in 2018.

The organisations said the FTC should go further than identifying product overlaps, which is a common approach taken during antitrust reviews of drug companies.

In many cases the FTC will ask for one of the merging companies to sell off a product where there is an overlap to ensure there is healthy competition, while allowing deals to still go ahead.

The unions signing the letter are also unimpressed with Allergan’s track record on pricing, noting its controversial and bizarre deal in 2017 that transferred patents to its dry-eye drug deal Restasis to a native American tribe, blocking legal challenges from generic rivals.

“These practices should receive careful attention as part of the commission’s investigation into the effects of this proposed merger and if an adequate remedy can not be found, the commission should challenge this acquisition,” the group said in the letter cited by Reuters.

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