Court Denies Drug Cos. Bid to Escape Lipitor Antitrust Lawsuit
On Tuesday, August 21 2018, U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey rejected a bid by Pfizer Inc. and Ranbaxy Inc. to quash state antitrust law claims against the pharmaceutical company.
The court rejected the argument that state-law antitrust claims brought by health insurers, consumers, and union health benefit plans are preempted by federal patent law. Siding with the plaintiffs, Judge Sheridan agreed that federal patent law preemption does not apply to the case because, though patents are being considered as a part of the antitrust litigation, the goal and scope of antitrust and consumer protection law is markedly different than the field of patent law.
“The purpose for patent protection is to provide an incentive to invent, to promote the full disclosure of inventions and to ensure ‘that which is in the public domain cannot be removed therefrom by action of the states,’” the judge wrote. “Antitrust and consumer protection law protects consumers from being overcharged for products, which is a wholly different goal than patent law.”
Judge Sheridan also allowed individual consumer protection state claims to move forward in California, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina.
The case, In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation (case no.: 3:12-cv-2389), alleges that plaintiffs were forced to pay “supracompetitive prices” on the blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor due to Pfizer’s agreement with generic manufacturer, Ranbaxy, to delay market entry of its own generic product in the U.S. in exchange for generic sales rights outside of the U.S. and a sweetheart settlement in litigation related to another drug product. These allegations are included in an overarching anticompetitive scheme in which Pfizer is also alleged to have defrauded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to procure an additional Lipitor patent, engaged in sham litigation concerning that patent, and submitted a sham “Citizen Petition” to delay FDA approval of Ranbaxy’s generic Lipitor.
Plaintiffs in this case are represented by Kenneth A. Wexler, Bethany R. Turke and Justin N. Boley of Wexler Wallace LLP, Lisa J. Rodriguez of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Michael M. Buchman and Michelle Zolnoski of Motley Rice LLC, Vincent J. Esades, Renae D. Steiner and Jessica N. Servais of Heins Mills & Olson PLC, and Sharon K. Robertson and Donna M. Evans of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.