On October 27, 2017, proposed class claims were filed against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) by grocery union benefits fund United Foods and Commercial Workers Local 1500 Welfare Fund (“UFCW”) who accuse J&J of using its considerable resources and influence to protect the monopoly of its best selling drug, Remicade.
In the complaint, UFCW claims that J&J plotted to keep less expensive biosimilar, or generic, versions of Remicade manufactured by its competitors Pfizer and Merck from gaining a foothold in the market. Remicade was the stand-alone infliximab product on the market for over 20 years, grossing $5.7 billion in U.S. sales in 2015. The drug itself is versatile and is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, J&J’s monopoly hold on the market was disrupted in November 2016 when Pfizer began selling its generic version of Remicade at a 15% reduction in price compared to J&J. In July 2017, Merck likewise announced that it would begin to ship its own generic version of Remicade for 35% less than J&J’s list price.
In response to the addition of generic forms of Remicade to the market, the plaintiffs allege that J&J began to issue exclusionary contracts with insurers, which would ensure that insurers would only reimburse or cover the costs of brand name Remicade. The plaintiffs argue that these coercive practices kept patients from switching to a generic form of the drug and thus kept the cost of Remicade high. Plaintiff UFCW claims that as it provides health benefits for almost 23,000 members, it has had to pay and reimburse more for prescriptions of Remicade as a result of J&J’s anticompetitive actions.
In the complaint, UFCW brings claims of violation of the federal Sherman Act, along with claims that J&J violated various state antitrust and consumer protection laws. The suit is seeking to represent a national class comprised of patients who purchased Remicade from April 5, 2016 to present. In addition to the national class, the suit also seeks to represent a subclass comprised of patients from states with antitrust and consumer protection laws.
The case is: UFCW Local 1500 Welfare Fund v. Johnson & Johnson et al., Case No.: 2:17-cv-04830, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
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