Congress: AbbVie exploited its Humira, Imbruvica patents

AbbVie has been accused of exploiting the country's patent system to drive up prices for its rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira and cancer drug Imbruvica by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform in a 57-page report released May 18.

The drugmaker's CEO, Richard Gonzalez, testified before the committee May 18 to answer questions about the prices of Humira and Imbruvica, which have risen to $77,000 and $181,529 for year's supply, respectively.

AbbVie executives received larger bonuses as a result of raising the price for Humira and Imbruvica, while these decisions forced patients across the country who could not afford their medication to stop taking it, according to the report.

The report refers to Humira as "the highest grossing drug in the world," saying AbbVie made $16 billion from U.S. Humira patients in 2020. The drugmaker has more than 200 patents for the drug to prevent generic competitors from entering the market, even though the patent for Humira's active ingredient expired at the end of 2016.

"AbbVie’s patent strategy is particularly abusive because it seeks to overwhelm potential competitors with the sheer number of patents on Humira regardless of whether individual patents were properly granted under U.S. law," the report said. "If one patent is invalidated, AbbVie has another patent waiting. Thus, if a competitor wants to enter the market, it must slice its way through the entire patent thicket—a process that is both expensive and slow."

The drugmaker also reached settlement agreements with potential generic competitors to delay their entrance into the market, according to the report.

"Overall, most Americans have access to affordable medicines," Mr. Gonzales said during the hearing. "As we tackle the issues of drug pricing and access, it’s important that we focus on what’s working and what needs to change to make sure that patients get the medicines they need."

AbbVie did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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