AbbVie to face House committee subpoena over Humira, Imbruvica pricing strategies: chairwoman

A House committee is set to subpoena AbbVie in a drug pricing investigation. (AbbVie)

AbbVie has faced years of investigations and lawsuits over its drug pricing and patenting strategies, but lawmakers at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform haven’t been satisfied with the company’s responses to their 18-month probe. The committee's chairwoman is now planning to subpoena the company after repeated attempts at gathering info haven't yielded the results she wanted.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney is preparing to subpoena the company for information on Humira, the world’s bestselling medicine, and Imbruvica, a blood cancer drug with blockbuster sales, she wrote to other lawmakers on the committee.  Recently, the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK) raised red flags over a “patent wall” around the latter med, drawing similarities to AbbVie’s famous Humira defense

An AbbVie spokeswoman said the company has "been working cooperatively with the House Oversight Committee since we received their initial letter in January 2019."

"In fact, we’ve provided thousands of documents and have had numerous conversations with the Committee staff," she added. "While we are surprised and disappointed the Committee chose to take this action, we will continue to work in good faith with them on this important subject."

Although AbbVie has faced criticism, lawsuits and investigations over its aggressive patenting and price increases for Humira, a judge recently ruled the company's strategy is legal. The drugmaker filed 247 patent applications for Humira and scored patents that could've provided 39 years of market exclusivity, I-MAK found in a 2018 report. In addition, AbbVie raised prices for the medicine 18 times between 2009 and 2019, Maloney wrote in her memo.

Under settlements with biosimilar makers, copycats to the blockbuster immunology med are set to launch in the U.S. in 2023. 

RELATED: AbbVie's Humira defense may keep prices high, but it's still legal, judge rules 

The late Rep. Elijah Cummings initially started the drug pricing probe in January 2019, centering it on 19 of the most profitable medicines in the U.S. He had trouble getting the companies to cooperate initially, and after several months, he reached out to the drugmakers to let them know they had failed to adequately respond.

Then, in September 2019, Cummings focused on AbbVie after the Illinois pharma provided “woefully inadequate” responses, according to Maloney's memo. AbbVie in turn pledged to provide more info in its subsequent communications, but the drugmaker didn’t follow through, she wrote.

RELATED: AbbVie, already famous for its Humira strategy, forms another 'patent wall' around Imbruvica: report 

Aside from Cummings’ three letters, staff members for the lawmakers have informed AbbVie of its inadequate communications more than a dozen times, she added. 

Rep. Cummings passed away in October 2019, but the committee is still moving ahead with the probe.