Pharmaceutical companies to pay states $22.5 million

Chris Rizo Jan. 7, 2010, 1:35pm

Rob McKenna (R-Wash.)

Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline)-Abbott Laboratories and two units of Belgium drugmaker Solvay Pharmaceuticals have agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a multistate lawsuit over their cholesterol-reducing drug TriCor.

The companies, which partnered in 1998 to manufacture and distribute TriCor, have agreed to pay 23 states and the District of Columbia under a proposed settlement, state attorneys general announced Thursday.

"Abbott and Fournier schemed to keep cheaper drugs off the market so they could rake in money from TriCor sales," Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said. "Our settlement recaptures ill-gained dollars for government programs and ensures money-saving choices for patients."

Filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware in March 2008, the multistate complaint alleged Abbott and Solvay untis Fournier Industrie et Sante and Laboratoires Fournier S.A. tried to block generic versions of TriCor by making minor changes to the drug that provided no clinical benefit in an effort to take advantage of state drug substitution laws.

As a result, pharmacists were not able to dispense less costly versions of TriCor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is barred from approving a generic drug for 30 months after patent infringement lawsuits have been filed.

"Abbott and Fournier devised a complex scheme that illegally blocked cheaper generic drugs from entering the market," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said. "They used minor reformulations of the drug to delay competition and filed frivolous patent lawsuits. This scheme cost California and other states millions of dollars."

The companies were also accused of filing meritless patent infringement lawsuits against generic drugmakers. TriCor accounted for more than $1 billion of Illinois-based Abbott Laboratory's sales last year.

Fournier, which developed TriCor, was acquired by Belgian company Solvay in 2005. Fournier and Abbott have not admitted to any wrongdoing.

States participating in the settlement are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.

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