The nation's largest drug chain has joined with four supermarket retailers in suing Pfizer Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. for allegedly scheming to delay the introduction of generic versions of Lipitor, Pfizer's blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug.


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Pharmacy retailers claim Pfizer delayed Lipitor generics

July 9th, 2012

NEW YORK – The nation's largest drug chain has joined with four supermarket retailers in suing Pfizer Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. for allegedly scheming to delay the introduction of generic versions of Lipitor, Pfizer's blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug.

Walgreen Co., Kroger Co., Safeway Inc., Supervalu Inc. and H-E-B have filed an antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J., charging Pfizer with employing anticompetitive tactics to postpone the release of Lipitor generics into the marketplace, according to published reports. Ranbaxy is reportedly named as a defendant in the suit.

U.S. market exclusivity for Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium tablets) ended Nov. 30, and announcements of the first Lipitor generics — including by Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. and by Ranbaxy — soon followed.

In the suit, the retailers claim that Lipitor generics should have been available 20 months earlier in March 2010, when the drug's original U.S. compound patent lapsed, published reports said. The plaintiffs allege that Pfizer fraudulently obtained a follow-on patent for Lipitor from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to extend the drug's market exclusivity.

The suit also accuses Pfizer and Ranbaxy of entering an agreement to delay the introduction of other Lipitor generics, according to reports. Ranbaxy had a six-month U.S. market exclusivity period for its Lipitor generic, and during that time Watson's authorized Lipitor generic was the only other generic version of the drug on the market.

In addition, the pharmacy retailers claim Pfizer made arrangements with pharmacy benefit managers that ended up forcing the chains to buy more brand-name Lipitor instead of a lower-priced generic version, costing the retailers hundreds of millions of dollars more for the drug.

Pfizer has denied the lawsuit's claims and stated that its actions in regard to its Lipitor patents and patent settlements are "proper and lawful," published reports said.

In May, Pfizer reported that in its 2012 first quarter, U.S. sales of brand-name Lipitor fell 71% to $383 million from $1.3 billion in the 2011 quarter.

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