The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing to block Amgen Inc. (AMGN) from acquiring Horizon Therapeutics (HZNP) on grounds that it could give the combined company a monopoly in the market for medications used to treat two critical illnesses.
"The $27.8 billion acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics would enable Amgen Inc. to stifle competition for thyroid eye disease and chronic refractory gout treatments," the agency said in a press release.
According to the FTC, Amgen could use its existing portfolio of blockbuster drugs to pressure insurance companies and health providers into favoring two Horizon products—Tepezza and Krystexxa—which have no competition in the marketplace. The company could also raise barriers to entry to prevent competitors from developing similar drugs.
"Rampant consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry has given powerful companies a pass to exorbitantly hike prescription drug prices, deny patients access to more affordable generics, and hamstring innovation in life-saving markets," said FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova.
In response, Amgen said it was "disappointed" with the FTC’s decision, and doesn’t believe the merger presents any competitive issues. The company "remains committed to completing this acquisition," claiming it will benefit patients suffering from rare diseases, and said it will work to secure a deal by December.
The FTC under current Chair Lina Khan has adopted a tougher approach to antitrust policy, in an attempt to prevent mergers and acquisitions (M&A) that could stifle competition. In December, the FTC sued Microsoft (MSFT) to prevent its acquisition of Activision Blizzard (ATVI), a deal that EU lawmakers approved on Monday. The agency also unsuccessfully tried to block Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META) from buying a virtual-reality game developer.
Amgen shares were down roughly 1% as of 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, while those of Horizon Therapeutics tumbled 15%. Shares of the two companies are down 12% and 16% so far this year, respectively.