- A congressional oversight committee plans to subpoena AbbVie for documents as part of an investigation into drug pricing involving a dozen pharmaceutical companies.
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee has been seeking documents related to the pricing of AbbVie's top two drugs, which generated more than $23 billion combined last year. In a memo outlining the reasons for the subpoena, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the company's responses have been "particularly poor" compared to other drugmakers involved in the probe.
- The late Elijah Cummings, D-Md., began the investigation in 2019, aiming to learn how companies determine the cost of their medicines and decide to raise prices. AbbVie is the only one to receive a subpoena thus far, with Maloney saying its "noncompliance stands out as particularly egregious." The drugmaker said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the committee's action, and shares fell Tuesday on the news.
In receiving a subpoena, AbbVie is alone among the 12 pharmaceutical companies initially targeted in the probe. The investigation, which began just days after Democrats took over the House of Representatives in January 2019, also included companies ranging from biotech giant Amgen to French drugmaker Sanofi.
After two requests for information that went to all of the companies, then-Chairman Cummings sent a third only to AbbVie in September 2019, complaining that the company’s responses were "woefully inadequate" and might prompt a subpoena.
AbbVie promised to give more substantive answers after that warning, but responses received by the committee in February and July of this year "failed to show marked improvement," Maloney said in her memo to fellow committee members.
In a statement, AbbVie said it has cooperated with the investigation and that it had "provided thousands of documents" to the committee.
Drugmakers have come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats for the rising costs of prescription medicines. But while Congress has initiated investigations and President Trump has repeatedly said he will tackle the problem, prices continue to climb.
AbbVie drew attention from the panel because it sells two expensive medicines. The North Chicago-based company’s rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira ranks as the best-selling drug in the world, with revenue of more than $19 billion last year.
Its blood cancer medicine Imbruvica, meanwhile, had sales of $4.7 billion. The treatment has drawn scrutiny from the patent reform group I-MAK, which says AbbVie is working the system to extend its market exclusivity far beyond what would be warranted.
The subpoena requires AbbVie to supply documents and communications related to pricing and lifecycle management strategies for Humira and Imbruvica from Jan. 1, 2009, to Jan. 14, 2019, as well as information on rebates and research and development costs. It also probes AbbVie's "exact method" for calculating bonuses of its 10 highest-paid executives.
Maloney said she was acting alone to issue the subpoena, instead of holding a business meeting to consider it, because some Republicans on the committee had tried to undermine the investigation.
This story has been updated with comment from AbbVie.