Pharma Coalition Fights Antitrust Overhaul, Advocates for Pro-Innovation M&A

The Partnership for the U.S. Life Science Ecosystem (PULSE), a group of influential pharmaceutical companies that includes AbbVie, Amgen, Gilead, Merck, and Novartis, is making a bold move by vehemently opposing a proposed antitrust overhaul and supporting "pro-innovation" mergers and acquisitions. This 31-member industry alliance contends that the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) new approach to antitrust enforcement contradicts long-standing precedent that has guided pro-innovation M&A for decades. PULSE warns that this "flawed approach" could jeopardize the dynamic ecosystem responsible for some of the world’s most innovative medical treatments.

In July 2023, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FTC introduced new proposed merger guidelines, reshaping their approach to mergers across industries, including pharmaceuticals. A central tenet of the 13-point merger evaluation criteria is that mergers should not substantially increase concentration in already saturated areas.

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Previously, FTC antitrust enforcers focused primarily on direct competition. The updated rules also consider how companies leverage their negotiating power, acknowledging the broader landscape of market influence.

The DOJ and FTC further suggested modifications to the premerger notification and review process, as well as changes to company reporting procedures earlier in the summer. These new regulations may extend contract reviews by two to three months. The agencies argue that the revised filing criteria will enhance their ability to efficiently screen transactions for potential antitrust concerns.

In a notable instance, Amgen, a founding member of PULSE, negotiated a $27.8 billion deal to acquire Horizon Therapeutics in September 2023 after the FTC sued it in May of the same year. This transaction, the largest of 2022, drew attention to concerns surrounding industry rebating. The FTC expressed apprehension that Amgen might sway pharmacy plan administrators to favor Horizon therapies by offering discounts on its complementary medications.

PULSE says that stopping mergers and acquisitions that promote innovation could hurt the many positive relationships in the life sciences ecosystem, which could slow down progress in finding better treatments and cures for patients. Additionally, it could pose risks to jobs, wages, and overall economic growth in every state. The main goals of the coalition are to stress how important it is for companies to share the savings and knowledge they gain through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and to give useful information about the benefits and economic importance of M&A in local communities and for overall development.

As PULSE takes a firm stand against the proposed antitrust overhaul, the pharmaceutical industry braces for potential shifts in regulatory landscapes and the future of innovation-driven mergers and acquisitions. The outcome of this battle will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of the U.S. life sciences ecosystem for years to come.