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The California Attorney General joined a coalition of 20 state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to address significant issues of antitrust and anticompetitive pharmaceutical agreements involving AbbVie Inc.’s drug, Humira.

AbbVie allegedly employed numerous strategies to prevent any competition to Humira, including entering into multiple anticompetitive agreements with rival drug companies that allowed AbbVie to raise the price of Humira and limit options for patients.

Humira is used to treat inflammation that leads to autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and plaque psoriasis. Humira is the world’s largest selling drug, generating sales of some $20 billion a year and costing approximately $39,000 per year for treatment.

AbbVie’s anticompetitive agreements, known as pay-for-delay agreements, allowed rival companies to compete against Humira outside the United States in 2018. But the agreements required the rival companies to delay the introduction in the U.S. of a competitive counterpart to Humira until 2023.

On June 8, 2020, in a Memorandum and Opinion Order, Judge Shah of the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, granted AbbVie’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ complaint, ruling that “even when considered broadly and together for their potential to restrain trade – [the Plaintiffs’ allegations] fall short of alleging the kind of competitive harm remedied by antitrust law.”

The dismissal has now been appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. California has thus joined forces with the attorneys general of Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin to overturn this dismissal.

The California Attorney General said that with these pay-for-delay agreements, “AbbVie could freely raise the price of Humira in the U.S. by 6.2 percent in 2019 followed by a 7.4 percent increase this year. While Humira prices are increasing in the U.S., they are decreasing in Europe where there is competition. Humira’s sky-high price tag and its scheme to protect the inflated Humira price hurts employers, patients, insurers and the government, who all shoulder the burden of those inflated prices.”

In California, Assembly Bill 824, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, gives the Attorney General a stronger platform to investigate and prosecute these illegal and harmful drug pricing practices.