Congress to subpoena AbbVie for providing 'particularly poor' drug pricing documents

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is planning to subpoena AbbVie for documentation regarding two of its most profitable drugs, according to a memo written by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

In January 2019, the committee gathered data about pricing plans for expensive medications from a dozen drugmakers to address the public's growing concerns about prescription unaffordability. The subpoena is being issued because the committee believes AbbVie failed to provide sufficient information regarding the pricing of Humira, its rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Imbruvica, a lymphoma drug.

"The volume and quality of AbbVie's responses are inconsistent with the expected recordkeeping and decision-making processes of a large multi-national corporation regarding two of its most profitable drugs," Ms. Maloney wrote. "In addition, the volume and quality of AbbVie's responses are particularly poor in comparison to the documents produced by other companies that are the subject of the Committee's investigation — particularly given that the Committee is examining two of AbbVie's most profitable products."

In 2019, Humira brought AbbVie $14.8 billion in sales in the U.S. alone, according to STAT. The drugmaker has obtained dozens of patents to protect the drug against competition from generic drugmakers, a tactic it also employs to safeguard Imbruvica sales. 

AbbVie has at least 88 patents for Imbruvica, which guarantees the company exclusive rights to sell the drug until at least 2036. Its list price is $174,000.

"We've been working cooperatively with the House Oversight Committee since we received their initial letter in January 2019," an AbbVie spokesperson told STAT. "In fact, we've provided thousands of documents and have had numerous conversations with the Committee staff. While we are surprised and disappointed the Committee chose to take this action, we will continue to work in good faith with them on this important subject."

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