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State Files Suit Against Drug Company
March 18, 2008
Attorney General Steve Rowe announced that the State of Maine has charged Abbott Laboratories and French drug company Fournier with violating antitrust laws in delaying the availability of a cheaper, generic version of TriCor, a cholesterol drug which last year accounted for over one billion dollars of Abbott’s sales.
A civil complaint filed in federal court in Delaware against Abbott and Fournier seeks triple the amount of damages incurred by the state’s public health agencies and individual consumers. Maine was joined in the suit by the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The complaint stems from actions of the two drug companies to prevent the marketing of a generic version of the drug. TriCor is the brand name for a drug used to reduce high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol that Abbott began marketing in 1998. At issue in the complaint are Abbott and Fournier’s attempts to block a cheaper generic version of TriCor when generic drug companies began developing their own versions of the cholesterol lowering drug. Using patents obtained by deceiving the Patent Office with incomplete and misleading data, Abbott and Fournier brought a series of groundless patent infringement lawsuits against these generic companies.
Rowe stated “These two drug companies manipulated the patent system and engaged in baseless litigation to keep generic competitors off the market. This resulted in higher profits for the drug companies and higher prices for Maine consumers.” Rowe noted that generic drugs often cost patients between 50 to 80 percent less than name brand counterparts. “Maine will not tolerate anti-competitive practices intended to keep lower cost prescription drugs off the market” said Rowe.
According to the complaint, Abbott and Fournier filed over ten lawsuits against the generic companies between 2000 and 2004, during which time those companies were attempting to obtain Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval for their generic versions of TriCor. Abbott and Fournier eventually lost or dismissed all of the lawsuits.
Abbott and Fournier knew that the patents upon which it based these lawsuits were unenforceable and that such actions could not succeed on their merits. Their infringement actions were therefore mere sham designed to exclude generic competition from the TriCor market.
At the same time, as part of its plan to block generic competition, Abbott and Fournier made minor changes in the formulations of TriCor, not to improve it, but rather to prevent generic versions from obtaining AB ratings that allow them to be substituted for the more costly TriCor. As a result of the product switches and patent litigation, the drug companies have successfully thwarted all generic competition, allowing the companies to charge monopoly prices for TriCor.
NEWSRELEASE David Loughran, (207) 626-8577