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J&J Anti-Inflammatory Medication Swells Consumer Prices

On March 15, 2023, the Honorable Karen Marston of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted final approval of a $39.8 million settlement (“Settlement”) to resolve antitrust claims against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J” or the “Company”) alleging that the company launched its “Biosimilar Readiness Plan” to block health care providers from purchasing competitor products of its infliximab biosimilar, Remicade.  The Settlement previously received preliminary approval in August 2022.

Remicade, and competing biosimilars, block parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation.  The medication helps treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.  Remicade costs about $26,000 for a full year of treatment, while competing biosimilars were initially offered at a 35% cheaper rate.

The Plaintiff class, represented by National Employees Health Plan and the Local 295 Employer Group Welfare Plan (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), accused J&J of devising and executing a plan designed to suppress competition and raise prices by forcing insurers and providers to enter into exclusionary contracts for Remicade and other products J&J bundled with Remicade.  Tellingly, when two cheaper biosimilars, Pfizer Inc.’s Inflectra and Merck’s Renflexis, entered the nearly $5 billion annual market, J&J actually raised the price of Remicade by almost 9%.  Plaintiffs allege the “Biosimilar Readiness Plan” has made providers hesitant to stock an alternative to Remicade, which has resulted in government health care programs and individual patients paying for the more expensive medication.

J&J has denied all claims of wrongful conduct.  However, this is not the first time the Company has been challenged for its anti-competitive activity regarding Remicade: In 2021, J&J and Pfizer Inc. entered into a confidential agreement after Pfizer Inc. sued, claiming that J&J breached the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 by threatening to deny rebates for Remicade if health insurers covered competing products.

Judge Marston ultimately determined the Settlement to be “fair, adequate, and reasonable.”  The class will be paid $39.8 million, with about 28% awarded to class counsel for attorneys’ fees and expenses.  The class representatives will each receive a $15,000 case contribution award for their efforts.

The class is represented by Miller Shah LLP and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.

The case is National Employees Health Plan v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 2:17-cv-04326, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The larger multidistrict litigation, also filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is In re: Remicade Antitrust Litigation, case number 17-cv-04326.

The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has extensive experience representing antitrust and class action matters.  If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Natalie Finkelman (nfinkelman@millershah.com) or Samantha Kielbania (sjkielbania@millershah.com).  The firm can also be reached toll free at (866) 540-5505.

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