Saturday, October 23, 2021

‘They can’t wait three weeks’: Biden to drugmakers seeking buyout of Pfizer’s consumer-health unit

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Vice President Joe Biden urged beneficiaries of a $9 billion buyout of Pfizer’s $13 billion consumer-health unit to get their pills now or risk paying far more for them in the future.

“They can’t wait three weeks, they can’t wait three months and don’t get in the way of our pharmaceutical industry, which is going to be reaping the benefits of your victory,” Biden said at a Tuesday event to announce the Treasury Department’s filing of a “robust” position to block the sale of that unit to German drugmaker Merck.

Mylan NV wants to buy Pfizer’s consumer-health business, the maker of pain reliever Advil and allergy drug Senso Beta, in a $13 billion deal. The deal, which the Treasury Department objected to as a transfer of corporate control, would hand New York-based Mylan control of a portfolio of 11 over-the-counter products and six brands sold as dietary supplements, the department said in a filing Tuesday.

The U.S. and New York-based Pfizer are on opposite sides of a global price battle involving companies like Mylan, which have responded by moving manufacturing facilities and sales networks away from the U.S. Pfizer on Friday complained that the Merck acquisition of the company’s consumer business “would create a company much larger and significantly stronger in the U.S. than today” and “shift Pfizer’s role in the industry.”

Companies are “trying to protect their competitive advantage because governments all over the world are trying to drive down pharmaceutical pricing,” Biden said. “This is what the government is about.”

President Donald Trump has vowed to tackle rising drug prices, calling drug companies “getting away with murder.”

The Trump administration in September dropped its so-called 340B program aimed at assisting lower-income Americans to obtain drugs. The department has also said that fewer than 10 percent of drugs from U.S. makers are subject to “disproportionate” pricing.

Biden noted that Democrats in Congress had been pushing for drug pricing reforms that weren’t reflected in the original legislation.

“Take us up on our offer,” Biden said. “You’ll see our generosity.”

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