Various news agencies (see link here for Reuters version as posted by Fox News) have reported that Johnson and Johnson is suing Amgen for anti-competitive practices used to market its durg darbepoitin (trade name: Aranesp), used to reduce anemia, especially for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Johnson and Johnson, maker of competing anti-anemia drug epoetin (marketed as Procrit), claimed that Amgen requires oncology clinics to sign contracts requiring that they purchase Aranesp if they want discounts on its drug used to ameliorate neutropenia, pegfilgrastim (marketed as Neulasta, and previously as Neupogen). Neutropenia, like anemia, is a common side-effect of chemotherapy. The lawsuit charged that Amgen's contract structure "represent anti-competitive business practice that restricts the ability of oncologists to choose treatments best suited to the individual needs of patients with cancer who suffer from anemia related to chemotherapy."
Amgen, of course, replied that "the allegations in the lawsuit are without merit."
I suppose it's nice to see a pharamaceutical company trying to fight anti-competitive practices. The federal government no longer seems very interested in this problem in health care, especially in the form of local markets dominated by few insurers or large hospital systems.
But, again, as is often demonstrated on Health Care Renewal, the power resulting from the size of health care organizations tends to corrupt.
And, of course, if the alleged anti-competitive practices did occur in this case, they would be just another way to push up the prices of drugs, a major component of rising health care costs. (See our recent post here on how much we spend on me-too drugs.)
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