J&J finalizes $25M settlement, laying Remicade antitrust allegations to rest
A Pennsylvania federal judge on Wednesday cemented a $25 million settlement in a class action suit alleging Johnson & Johnson blocked biosimilar competition to its immunosuppressive drug Remicade.
First approved in 1998 for Crohn’s disease, Remicade (a TNF inhibitor biologic also known as infliximab) has since been cleared in a slate of other immune-mediated conditions, including ulcerative colitis, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. However, the yearly cost for some patients reaches $26,000, according to a complaint updated in 2018.
Despite the emergence of multiple biosimilars in the US — including Pfizer and Celltrion’s Inflectra, and Merck and Samsung Bioepis’ Renflexis, now commercialized in partnership with Organon after its spinout — plaintiffs argued that J&J used its monopoly power to suppress competition and “forced health insurance companies and healthcare providers to enter into exclusionary agreements that effectively blocked competition for Remicade, thus causing Plaintiffs and members of the Classes (as defined below) to overpay on their infliximab purchases.”
“These acts, each anticompetitive on their own, were magnified when used in concert and all served to maintain J&J’s stranglehold on the market, maintain its grasp on the nearly $5 billion annual market for the medication, and shut out would-be competitors whose entrance into the market would naturally cause prices for the important drug to decline,” a complaint reads.
J&J settled a separate case with Pfizer back in 2021, which argued that J&J’s “exclusionary plan has been remarkably effective at stifling competition.” At the time, infliximab biosimilars controlled just 25% of the US market, according to an investor note from then-Bernstein biotech analyst Ronny Gal.
While J&J denies wrongdoing in the latest class action case, Judge Karen Marston finalized a $25 million settlement Wednesday dismissing the case with prejudice. The class includes “persons and entities in the United States and its territories who indirectly purchased, paid and/or provided reimbursement for some or all of the purchase price of Defendants’ infliximab from April 5, 2016 through February 28, 2022,” Marston concluded.
In approving the settlement, Marston also overruled the objections of one patient who argued that the settlement figure was “unreasonably low.” She awarded the class counsel $7 million in attorney’s fees, and nearly $2.3 million in “out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the prosecution of this action.” Two groups, the National Employees Health Plan and the Local 295 Employer Group Welfare Fund, received $15,000 and $15,600, respectively, as class representative service awards.
Remicade brought in $2.3 billion in worldwide sales last year, down roughly 26% from the year prior, according to J&J’s latest earnings report.
“Janssen has long been supportive of a robust, competitive environment for biologics, including biosimilars. This settlement resolves all of the private litigation on this matter,” Janssen said in a statement via email.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comment from Janssen, and to clarify that Organon is now Samsung’s commercial partner for Renflexis, following its spinout from Merck.