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Acting FTC Chief Wants New Approach For Analyzing Pharma Mergers

 |  March 16, 2021

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday, March 16, announced plans to reconsider its approach to scrutinizing pharmaceutical mergers, with an eye toward taking a more aggressive stance against drug-company deals that may harm competition, reported The Wall Street Journal.

The initiative, spurred by the FTC’s acting Democratic chairwoman, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, signals what could be a tougher road ahead for the industry during the Biden administration.

“Given the high volume of pharmaceutical mergers in recent years, amid skyrocketing drug prices and ongoing concerns about anticompetitive conduct in the industry, it is imperative that we rethink our approach toward pharmaceutical merger review,” Ms. Slaughter said.

The FTC is starting a working group that will take a broader look at how pharmaceutical deals affect the marketplace. Other participants include the Justice Department’s antitrust division, state attorneys general and competition officials from Canada, the UK, and Europe, the FTC stated.

Working with those officials, “we intend to take an aggressive approach to tackling anticompetitive pharmaceutical mergers,” Ms. Slaughter said.

Ms. Slaughter was designated the acting head of the FTC by President Biden after he took office in January. She is in the running to be named the permanent chair of the five-member body, but the administration has yet to announce its plans.

The FTC has challenged portions of drug-company mergers with regularity but doesn’t often block such deals outright. Instead, merging drug companies usually agree to sell off assets when they have overlapping product lines in their pharmaceutical portfolios.