The US Federal Trade Commission has authorised a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to block CSL of Australia's proposed $3.1-billion acquisition of Talecris Biotherapeutics.

The FTC charges that the deal would be illegal and would “substantially reduce competition in the US markets for four plasma-derivative protein therapies – immune globulin (Ig), albumin, Rho-D, and alpha-1. The head of its Bureau of Competition, Richard Feinstein, says that “now more than ever, it is critical that consumers benefit from vigorous competition in the health care sector – both to ensure competitive prices and to drive further innovation”.

He added that “substantial consolidation has already occurred in the plasma protein industry, and these highly concentrated markets are already exhibiting troubling signs of coordinated behaviour". Mr Feinstein concluded by saying that the proposed acquisition would “increase the likelihood of collusion”.

CSL, based in Melbourne, is the world’s second-largest supplier of plasma-derivative protein therapies, behind Baxter, and if the merger with Talecris is completed, the two firms would hold an over 80% market share for some products, claimed the FTC. However CSL is unimpressed by the agency’s stance.

Brian McNamee, CSL's chief executive said that “we strongly disagree with the FTC’s decision to challenge the deal”. He added that the firm intends to “vigorously oppose the FTC’s actions”, saying that the agency “has failed to recognise that this combination is pro-competitive, provides significant efficiencies that will improve the supply of biotherapies and is beneficial to the patient community”.