2023-02-22| Special

Dutch Pharmaceutical Watchdog Organization Sues Abbvie over Humira Pricing

by Reed Slater
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On Tuesday, the Netherlands-based Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation (PAF) announced that it is suing pharma giant, Abbvie, for excessively pricing its arthritis drug, Humira, for nearly 15 years. The watchdog organization claims Abbvie overcharged the Dutch healthcare system up to €1.2 billion ($1.27 billion) between 2004 and 2018 when Abbvie had control over the Dutch arthritis therapy market. 

The Case Against Abbvie

In the years of Humira’s monopoly on the arthritis market in the Netherlands, Abbvie sold €2.3 billion worth of the drug. Humira has raked in over $200 billion worldwide, making it one of Abbvie’s most profitable products. 

The PAF said it calculated the excessive profits in the Netherlands by subtracting research and development costs claimed by Abbvie, production and distribution costs disclosed by the U.S. Congress, and including a ‘fair’ 25% profit margin. 

PAF Chairperson, Wilbert Bannenberg MD, said, “By making excessive profits (amounting to €68 per Dutch citizen), AbbVie has displaced other health care, and thus damaged the health of Dutch citizens. Health economists have calculated that AbbVie’s excessive profit could have ensured up to 16,300 extra years of healthy life for Dutch citizens.”

Lawsuits against pharmaceuticals are commonplace, but what sets the PAF’s case against Abbvie apart from others is that the PAF accuses Abbvie of three separate violations. The civil litigation is based on a breach of social duty of care, violation of the Right to Life and the Right to Health, and abuse of a dominant position. 

Related Article: Bloomberg Blasts GSK Over Handling of Zantac’s Cancer Risks

The PAF’s Previous Case Against Overpricing

Founded in 2018, the PAF already has one substantial court win under its belt against Italy-based Leadiant Biosciences. That case also accused Leadiant of abuse of a dominant position when it increased the price of chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) by 500 times its original amount from €308 per year to a whopping €153,500 per year. CDCA treats Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis, a rare genetic condition. 

After lodging the initial complaint in 2018, Dutch courts took three years to render a verdict, ultimately forcing Leadiant to pay €19.5 million in fines in July 2021. The Israeli Competition Authority followed suit just months later, fining Leadiant €2.2 million on similar grounds. Leadiant’s home country, Italy, fined the company €3.5 million in May 2022. Most recently, the Spanish Competition Authority imposed a €10.25 million fine on Leadiant for abusing its market position last November. 

With one significant court case in the rearview mirror, the PAF is putting all its efforts toward its new case against Abbvie. With mountains of paperwork to sift through, court cases like these often take several years, but the PAF has the ball rolling, and developments are sure to follow. 

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