Generic competition prompts all sorts of maneuvering. No wonder, considering the alternative. But sometimes those tactics get drugmakers into hot water--or into court. Take Abbott Laboratories, whose cholesterol med TriCor is one of its biggest sellers with $1.2 billion in 2007 revenues. That's despite the fact that copycat companies have been churning out TriCor imitators for years.
TriCor's continued success in the face of generics prompted all sorts of lawsuits, from pharmacies, wholesalers, generics companies, insurers, patients and state attorneys general. The allegations: Abbott repeatedly tweaked TriCor to stay one step ahead of copycat meds. The TriCor improvements were designed, these lawsuits say, to prevent the sort of automatic generic substitution that happens when doctors allow copycat meds to stand in for the branded drug prescribed. Abbott created a monopoly, the suits say, by preventing that generic substitution and using other anticompetitive strategies.
Well, Abbott is kissing the bulk of those claims goodbye, agreeing to pay $184 million to settle claims from several pharmacies, wholesalers and generics makers. The company says it's settling to avoid the "uncertainty" of a trial. And Abbott maintains that it didn't break any laws. "New formulations of TriCor have provided patients with innovation in use, dosing and convenience," a spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, "and no company has a monopoly on treating patients with high cholesterol."
Other TriCor claims--including those filed by the attorneys general and insurers--remain outstanding, but this settlement covers most of the suits, the company said in an SEC filing. Meanwhile, Abbott awaits approval of a new TriCor version called TriLipix. The FDA delayed its decision, but Abbott thinks it will get the OK by year's end.