AbbVie’s anti-inflammatory blockbuster Humira accounted for nearly $1.4 billion in additional unsupported U.S. drug spending last year, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review says.

Drug Pricing Watchdog Identifies Most Significant Price Hikes

Makers of seven of 10 top drugs in the U.S. hiked those drugs’ prices substantially in 2020 with no new evidence of improved safety or effectiveness, led by AbbVie’s anti-inflammatory blockbuster Humira, an influential drug pricing watchdog group says.

The Boston-based Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) released its third Unsupported Price Increase Report last week. Its second report came out in in January 2021 and its first in late 2019.

“The 2020 unsupported price increases on these seven treatments, even after pharmaceutical rebates and other concessions, cost the US health system an additional $1.67 billion beyond what would have been spent if their net prices had remained flat,” ICER said.

Humira alone accounted for nearly $1.4 billion in additional unsupported U.S. drug spending last year, ICER said. AbbVie boosted Humira’s wholesale acquisition cost 7.3% in 2020 compared to 2019, and its net price by 9.6%, it said. Sales in the U.S. last year were $16.1 billion.

ICER Chief Medical Officer David Rind, M.D., said in a statement that Humira’s U.S. price is “ever-escalating” in stark contrast “to its falling price in every country where Humira currently faces biosimilar competition.”

ICER invited the manufacturers of the drugs it studied to comment on its findings. AbbVie said “the methodology and purpose of this assessment remains flawed. The report “could inappropriately impact patient access to medicines and lead to oversimplified pricing policies, and value assessment decisions,” it said.

The drug industry group National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) said ICER “focused on a narrowly selected group of medicines rather than the overall landscape, and then relied on incomplete evidence and inadequate analyses to fit the desired narrative.”

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has investigated AbbVie’s prices for and revenue from Humira and Imbruvica, another of its blockbusters. The committee reported in May 2021 that AbbVie raised Humira’s price 27 times since its market introduction in 2003, with virtually no change in the product during that time.

The committee also found that AbbVie gamed the federal orphan drug program to boost Humira’s profits. Four types of hospitals that participate in the 340B program are unable to purchase Humira and other drugs with orphan disease designations at reduced 340B prices. Legislation has been re-introduced to partially lift the ban.

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