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FTC Ratchets up Scrutiny on Pharmaceutical Deals

In 2018, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition announced in a speech that the FTC would favor divestitures of marketed drugs over pipeline drugs in pharmaceutical deals. Traditionally, when the FTC has had a concern about overlapping products, it has allowed the merging parties to decide which of the overlapping products to divest to remedy the concern. The director explained that, unlike marketed products, pipeline products may be costly to transfer or never be brought to market, eliminating a potential source of future competition.

Legislators on Capitol Hill have placed pressure on the FTC to scrutinize pharmaceutical deals with more vigor. Nine US senators wrote the FTC in September to voice concerns about the effect of pharmaceutical deals on innovation and prices. In their letter, the senators specifically highlighted divestitures of pipeline products, stating that such divestitures may not sufficiently address threats to competition because pipeline products may never make it to market.

What this Means:

Pharmaceutical deals may take longer for the FTC to review. In the past, deals with overlaps involving a Phase I or early Phase II product were often cleared in the initial HSR waiting period. The FTC review may be longer now that the agency plans to take a close look at overlaps involving these early stage products.

On the other hand, if the FTC considers Phase I and Phase II products to be competitive with marketed products, you may be able to show that there are additional competitors that the FTC should consider in the relevant market. In the past, the FTC may not have given much weight to the competitive significance of early phase products, but under the FTC’s current philosophy, more of these products may be competitive with products in the deal.

When you are completing pharmaceutical deals, be aware that if divestitures are necessary, the FTC may want the parties to divest the marketed product in marketed-to-pipeline overlaps, particularly if it involves somewhat complicated products to make, such as inhalants or injectables.

© 2020 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 288


About this Author

William Diaz, McDermott Will Emery Law firm, Antitrust and Competition Lawyer

William Diaz is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Orange County office. He is a member of the Firm’s Antitrust & Competition practice group. His antitrust practice is focused on mergers and acquisitions, complex litigation, government investigations, and counseling on pricing, distribution, and consumer protection issues. 

Jonathan Ende, attorney

Jonathan Ende focuses his practice on antitrust and competition, with particular strength in regulatory matters. He has a great deal of experience in internal investigations, and has a keen insight on the manufacturing and biomedical industries in particular.