Drug maker Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle allegations that it tried to block generic competition from a popular cholesterol medication. The agreement was announced by attorneys general from 23 states, including Arkansas and the District of Columbia, which had filed suit against Abbott to recover costs to state Medicaid plans. The multistate lawsuit alleged that Abbott and a unit of Belgium drug maker Solvay Pharmaceuticals made minor changes to the formulation of TriCor to prevent cheaper generic versions from launching.
The companies deprived taxpayers, state agencies, and consumers of a fair marketplace that would have lowered prices by offering less expensive generics. Generic drugs can cost between 30% to 80% less than brand-name medications. Generic drug makers typically launch low-cost versions of a drug after the patents on the original expire.
Several drug makers, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, were slated to launch generic versions of TriCor in 2002, as the drug’s patents were set to expire. But Abbott and Solvay made minor changes in the form and dosage strength of Tricor to renew its patent protection. Abbott claimed the formulations provided useful options to patients in terms of dosing and convenience.
North Chicago-based Abbott agreed last year to acquire Solvay for more than $6 billion. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of this year. Abbott licenses the U.S. rights for Trilipix and TriCor from Brussels-based Solvay. The drugs are used to raise “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Abbott reported $919 million in sales for TriCor and Trilipix during the first nine months of 2009. The states that will receive payments include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia.
Source: Associated Press
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