June 6, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to block drugmaker Amgen’s $27.8 billion acquisition of pharmaceutical company Horizon Therapeutics, alleging it would frustrate competition in the drug industry.

The FTC said the deal would allow Amgen to use its large portfolio of top-selling drugs to pressure insurers and others to favor two Horizon drugs that have no competition. The bureau’s commissioners voted 3 to 0 to approve the filing of the lawsuit.

The commission’s move is the most aggressive yet after years of signals that it would be more difficult to scrutinize pharmaceutical mergers. The agency has long forced merging companies to sell drugs that treat the same types of illnesses, but it’s much rarer for it to try to quash a merger altogether. This case is unusual because Amgen and Horizon do not sell competing products.

Holly Vedova, a senior commission official, said the agency’s lawsuit “sends a clear signal to the market: The FTC will not hesitate to challenge mergers that allow pharmaceutical conglomerates to entrench their monopolies at the expense of consumers.” and fair competition.”

Amgen said in a statement it was “disappointed” with the FTC’s decision and believed the merger raised “no legitimate competition concerns.” The company said it would go to court to get the merger through.

The merger, announced late last year, was poised to become one of the biggest pharmaceutical deals in recent years.

The FTC said the merger would allow Amgen to pressure insurers and the industry’s intermediaries, known as pharmacy benefit managers, to pay for two drugs that Horizon has a monopoly on. The drugs treat an autoimmune disease known as thyroid eye disease and the inflammatory condition chronic refractory gout. Amgen said it promised the FTC not to bundle those two Horizon products.