In what could become a significant decision for the pharmaceutical industry, a jury in U.S. federal court found that AstraZeneca’s deal with Ranbaxy Laboratories to settle a patent fight over its heartburn medication Nexium did not violate antitrust laws. A group of pharmacies, wholesalers and insurers had sued over the agreement.
As Bloomberg reported, this is the first time such a case has been decided since the Supreme Court handed down its decision on pay-for-delay deals last year. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission contends that pay-for-delay deals–in which drugmakers pay generics companies to settle patent disputes–can cost consumers as much as $3.5 billion a year, a number disputed by the industry.
“AstraZeneca is pleased with the jury’s verdict,” the company said in a statement. “The company has always maintained that the plaintiffs’ allegations were without merit.”
The companies’ pay-for-delay show surrounding generic Nexium dates back to 2012, when a group of purchasers challenged a 2008 patent settlement between AstraZeneca and Ranbaxy. According to the suit, AstraZeneca handed Ranbaxy nearly $1 billion to delay the launch of its generic Nexium until its patent ran out in May 2014. The suit also targeted two other generic drugmakers that had struck similar deals with AstraZeneca, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and India’s Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories–but both of those companies settled with the plaintiffs.