Proposed acquisition would have given IQVIA a market-leading position in healthcare advertising.
Following a review spanning November and December 2023, on December 29, 2023, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) request for a preliminary block to prevent IQVIA from acquiring Propel Media.1
The FTC originally sued to block the acquisition in July 2023. According to a press release from the FTC, “…the proposed acquisition would give IQVIA a market-leading position in programmatic advertising for health care products, namely prescription drugs, to doctors and other health care professionals.”
The FTC added that the merger would increase IQVIA’s incentive to withhold key information that may prevent rival companies and potential entrants from effectively competing in the marketplace.2
An IQVIA spokesperson said the decision will ultimately cause harm to patient outcomes and physician decision-making.
“IQVIA’s acquisition of Propel Media would have made it easier for patients and doctors to obtain the healthcare information they need to make better decisions that lead to improved health outcomes. We maintain that the FTC’s arguments in this case are inconsistent with the reality of the marketplace and unsupported by the law,” wrote an IQVIA spokesperson in an email to Pharm Exec.
IQVIA’s Lasso Marketing and Propel Media’s DeepIntent make up two of the top three providers for programmatic advertising, specifically targeting health care professionals (HCPs). The original complaint from the FTC alleged the transaction would eliminate advertising competition between the two organizations, resulting in an increase in price, but a decrease in quality. The FTC also contended that the deal would reduce innovation, preventing physicians and other healthcare providers (HCPs) from learning about impactful products for patients.
Being that IQVIA is the largest healthcare data provider, its datasets are considered to be the “gold standard.”2 Advertisers frequently prefer that their platforms use IQVIA data in their advertising campaigns. If IQVIA and Propel Media were to merge, it would have the ability to leverage its control over these datasets, leaving competition in this space at a disadvantage, according to the FTC.
“Protecting competition in the emerging health care programmatic advertising market plays a critical role in lowering health care costs, including the cost of prescription drugs.” said FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova in a press release. “Given the rampant consolidation across the pharmaceutical industry, it’s critical that the market for health care product advertising remains competitive to ensure that patients and their doctors have access to high quality, affordable products.”
This most recent federal court order marks the FTC’s fourth merger victory in less than a month. In December 2023, the FTC also secured victories in its challenges against potential acquisitions by Illumina of Grail, John Muir of San Ramon Regional Medical Center from Tenet Healthcare, and Sanofi of Maze Therapeutics’ Pompe disease drug.
Looking forward, the administrative trial is scheduled to begin on January 18, 2024.
“In light of the Court’s decision, the acquisition agreement between IQVIA and Propel Media has been terminated,” an IQVIA spokesperson told Pharm Exec. “We remain focused on the many opportunities for the continued growth of our Digital Enablement business—new offerings, new geographies, new capabilities—as we continue to accelerate innovation for a healthier world.”