More on Compliance & Legal

FTC sues to block IQVIA's acquisition of Propel Media

The deal would give IQVIA a market-leading position in programmatic advertising for healthcare products, the FTC said.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Photo: Pichsakul Promrungsee Eyeem/Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block IQVIA, the world's largest healthcare data provider, from acquiring Propel Media (PMI), alleging in an administrative complaint that the proposed acquisition would give IQVIA a market-leading position in programmatic advertising for healthcare products – namely prescription drugs – to doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The merger would also increase IQVIA's incentive to withhold key information to prevent rival companies and potential entrants from effectively competing, the complaint said.


IQVIA's Lasso Marketing and PMI's DeepIntent are two of the top three providers of programmatic advertising, known as demand-side platforms, that specifically target healthcare professionals with advertising for pharmaceutical drugs and other healthcare products. 

The FTC's complaint alleges that the proposed transaction would eliminate head-to-head competition between Lasso and DeepIntent, driving up prices and reducing quality and choice.

Competition in this market is necessary to protect patients from higher prices that could be passed on if the cost of marketing healthcare products increases due to reduced competition, the complaint said. The FTC contends the deal would also reduce innovation in this emerging industry, potentially harming patients by preventing doctors and other healthcare practitioners from learning about useful pharmaceutical products.

As the largest healthcare data provider, IQVIA also plays a unique and critical role in programmatic advertising to healthcare professionals because it controls leading provider identity and prescribing behavior data that are essential for healthcare demand-side platforms to compete, according to the complaint.

Because IQVIA's datasets are considered the "gold standard" among healthcare industry participants, advertisers frequently prefer that demand-side platforms use IQVIA data in their programmatic advertising campaigns to healthcare professionals. According to the complaint, if IQVIA and PMI merge, IQVIA will have the ability and incentive to leverage its control over these datasets to foreclose or otherwise disadvantage current or emerging rivals to DeepIntent and Lasso – thus raising prices for its data, reducing data quality or restricting advertisers from using its data.


In addition to the FTC's administrative complaint, the Commission has also authorized staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in federal district court to prevent IQVIA from consummating its acquisition of PMI pending the agency's administrative proceeding. The FTC's administrative and federal court complaints will be made available at a later time.

The Commission vote to issue an administrative complaint and authorize staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in federal district court was 3-0.


"Protecting competition in the emerging healthcare programmatic advertising market plays a critical role in lowering healthcare costs, including the cost of prescription drugs," said FTC Bureau of Competition Director Holly Vedova. "Given the rampant consolidation across the pharmaceutical industry, it's critical that the market for healthcare product advertising remains competitive to ensure that patients and their doctors have access to high quality, affordable products."

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: