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Attorney General Rowe Announces $5.5 Million Multistate Prescritption Drug Settlement
June 14, 2007
Attorney General Steve Rowe today announced the settlement of a civil enforcement action against the makers of the popular oral contraceptive product Ovcon. The lawsuit, joined by thirty-three other states and the District of Columbia, charged Warner Chilcott and Barr Pharmaceuticals with antitrust violations that have prevented generic versions of Ovcon from reaching the marketplace. As part of the settlement, Warner Chilcott will pay $5.5 million to Maine and the other litigating states.
"Access to generic drugs helps to contain the ever-increasing cost of health care. Without generics, many Mainers would be unable to afford the prescription their physicians prescribe." Rowe said, "The conduct in this case was particularly egregious. These companies conspired to keep a generic off the market, thereby ensuring the continuation of high consumer prices. The conduct both violated the law and hurt consumers."
The civil complaint was filed in 2005 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit alleges that Warner Chilcott paid Barr $20 million to keep Barr from marketing a generic version of Ovcon. According to the lawsuit, Ovcon has been sold in the United States since 1976 as an oral contraceptive, and Warner Chilcott became the exclusive U.S. distributor of Ovcon in early 2000.
During 2003, Barr publicly announced that it planned to have a generic version of Ovcon on the market by the end of that year. The lawsuit alleges that Warner Chilcott paid Barr $1 million in September 2003 for an option agreement designed to prevent Barr's generic product from coming to market. Under the terms of the alleged agreement, once Barr received FDA approval to market generic OvconŽ, Warner Chilcott had 90 days to pay Barr $19 million, after which Barr would refuse to bring the cheaper generic version to the market.
"The agreement between Warner Chilcott and Barr is precisely the type of anticompetitive conduct by drug companies that results in higher prescription prices for the people of Maine" said Rowe. Because this lawsuit was filed as a civil enforcement action, the states sought civil penalties and equitable relief. The relief that was obtained through the settlement will help ensure that Warner Chilcott does not engage in similar conduct in the future. Maine's portion of the settlement will be between $85,000 and $90,000. The money will be used to help prevent anticompetitive behavior through education and by bringing additional enforcement actions against companies that engage in illegal, anticompetitive actions.
The settlement involved only Warner Chilcott. The lawsuit against Barr Pharmaceuticals will continue moving forward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
David Loughran, Special Assistant to the Attorney General (207) 626-8577 or firstname.lastname@example.org