The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday sued to block the drug maker Amgen’s $27.8 billion acquisition of the pharmaceutical company Horizon Therapeutics, saying it would thwart competition in the drug industry.
The F.T.C. said the deal would allow Amgen to use its large portfolio of top-selling drugs to pressure insurers and others to favor two Horizon medications that lack competition. The agency’s commissioners voted 3 to 0 to approve filing the suit.
The commission’s move is its most aggressive yet after years of signaling that it would be tougher in scrutinizing pharmaceutical mergers. The agency has long forced merging companies to sell off drugs that treat the same types of diseases, but it is much rarer for it to try to quash a merger altogether. This case is unusual because Amgen and Horizon do not sell competing products.
Holly Vedova, a senior commission official, said the agency’s lawsuit “sends a clear signal to the market: The F.T.C. won’t hesitate to challenge mergers that enable pharmaceutical conglomerates to entrench their monopolies at the expense of consumers and fair competition.”
Amgen said in a statement that it was “disappointed” in the F.T.C.’s decision and believed the merger posed “no legitimate competitive issues.” The company said it would go to court to try to push the merger through.
The merger, announced late last year, was poised to be one of the largest pharmaceutical deals in recent years.
The F.T.C. said that the merger would enable Amgen to pressure insurers and the industry middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers to pay for two drugs where Horizon has a monopoly. The drugs treat an autoimmune disease known as thyroid eye disease and the inflammatory condition chronic refractory gout. Amgen said it had promised the F.T.C. that it would not bundle those two Horizon products.