Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation

AbbVie’s Humira earned €2.37 billion in the Netherlands, largely due to excessive pricing

AMSTERDAM, 23 DECEMBER:   The Pharmaceutical Accountability  Foundation (PAF) has calculated that AbbVie’s blockbuster medicine, Humira, turned over €2.37 billion in the Netherlands alone between 2004 and 2020. Using publicly available information, PAF has estimated that a significant percentage of the profit related to this turnover (approximately €1 billion) is due to excessive pricing.

In PAF’s consideration, AbbVie acted unlawfully by leveraging its market position to charge prices that were both excessive under Dutch competition law and unfair under international human rights principles. The real-world impact of this behaviour is that AbbVie’s excess profits crowded out the basic health care to which Dutch citizens are entitled, causing displacement of care.

Humira is an effective, safe and good quality product that helps patients. AbbVie is allowed to set prices that earn it a profit for bringing a medicine to market, but those prices must be fair. The excess profit of €1 billion PAF calculated translates to about 12,000 ‘lost’ Quality Adjusted Life Years that might otherwise have been funded with that money.

“Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, and to avoid anti-competitive behaviour. By abusing its market position to charge excessive prices, AbbVie has failed its Human Rights responsibilities and also violated the Dutch Civil Code,” said Wilbert Bannenberg, PAF’s founder and chairperson.

As a result, PAF has notified AbbVie on 21 December 2021 that it holds AbbVie liable for damages its pricing strategy on Humira has caused.

Humira, or adalimumab, is a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, severe psoriasis and other inflammatory illnesses. Its widespread applicability has earned it the title of ‘the Swiss army knife of drugs’ as well as a position as the number one best selling drug in the world, netting AbbVie some $170 billion (€150.7 billion) between 2003 and 2020.

The Humira turnover in the Netherlands was  €2.37 billion during the same time period. From 2009-2018 Humira generated the greatest sales revenue of any  medicine in the Netherlands, and peaked in 2014 at €223 million. The number of patients using Humira  increased from 5100 in 2006 to 28000 in 2020 in the Netherlands, but the price of Humira remained high until it dropped in 2018 when the patent lapsed and biosimilars entered the market.

Further reading

See also the Humira explainer page here.