Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has sued rival Johnson & Johnson over claims the company forced health care providers and insurers into exclusionary contracts aimed at blocking a competing autoimmune medication Pfizer recently introduced into the market.
Pfizer filed its lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging J&J engaged in monopolistic conduct and violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. The lawsuit, which, according to the docket, has been assigned to Judge J. Curtis Joyner, was filed by Cozen O’Connor attorney Robert Fiebach.
The lawsuit, Pfizer v. Johnson & Johnson, stems from Pfizer’s rollout of its generic version of an infusion therapy treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.
J&J had come out with its name-brand version of the drug in 1998. That drug, called Remicade, became a bestselling drug for the company, earning about $4.8 billion in the United States in 2016, according to the complaint.
However, as Pfizer began to roll out its generic version of the drug, called Inflectra, J&J began including exclusionary provisions in its contracts with carriers and health care providers that specifically barred those groups from covering or purchasing Inflectra in most circumstances, Pfizer alleged.
Among other tactics, J&J threatened to deny rebates to carriers if they covered Inflectra unless Remicade treatments had previously proved unsuccessful for the patient, Pfizer alleged.
“The net effect of these anti-competitive bundling practices is that the insurers subject to them have no real choice but to agree to J&J’s exclusivity conditions,” Pfizer said in the complaint. “Insurers have made it clear to Pfizer that its net cost for Inflectra would need to be low enough to offset the loss off J&J rebates (on the existing Remicade patient base) that insurers would lose if they declined J&J’s conditions.”
Douglas Lankler, executive vice president and general counsel at Pfizer, said J&J’s alleged conduct went against the purpose of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, which Inflectra received marketing approval under.
“J&J’s behavior runs counter to the spirit of this law and to U.S. antitrust laws,” Lankler said. “We are filing this suit to help ensure that patients can benefit from, and have access to, lower cost biosimilar therapies.”
Pfizer’s 51-page complaint also said that, since launching its cheaper generic version of the treatment, Pfizer has secured less than 4 percent of the market as of Sept. 1, and J&J has increased the price of the drug by about 9 percent.
A J&J executive, however, said the competition is bringing down the cost of the drug, and that Pfizer’s lawsuit is meritless.
“We are effectively competing on value and price and to date, Pfizer has failed to demonstrate sufficient value to patients, providers, payers and employers,” said Scott White, the president of Janssen Biotech Inc. “There is no merit to this lawsuit.”
Janssen Biotech is a subsidiary of J&J, and is also a named defendant in Pfizer’s lawsuit.
J&J had not yet retained counsel in the matter, according to the docket.