AbbVie notches reprieve in antitrust case involving blood pressure med snagged in $63B Allergan megamerger

AbbVie and a slate of generic drugmakers won a reprieve against claims they conspired to stall generics of the blood pressure med Bystolic in the U.S.

A federal judge in New York tentatively scrapped two antitrust cases: one concerning direct purchasers like CVS and Walgreens and another with end payers as the plaintiffs. The drugmaker defendants were accused of delaying the market entry of copycats of the hypertension blockbuster, which AbbVie snagged by way of its $63 billion megamerger with Allergan.

Judge Lewis Liman dismissed complaints from both sets of plaintiffs, giving them until Feb. 22 to file an amended complaint. The court’s opinion is temporarily sealed to provide time to make redactions but will be made public on Jan. 31, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday.

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The case that pits plaintiffs Walgreens, Kroger, Albertsons and HEB against drugmakers AbbVie, Allergan, Hetero Labs, Glenmark, Amerigen and Teva Pharmaceutical concerns claims that the pharmas schemed to boost profits by keeping lower-cost generics of AbbVie’s blood pressure drug off the market.

Monday’s decision is rooted in a 2013 Bystolic settlement with numerous generic drugmakers including Actavis, Alkem, Amerigen, Glenmark, Hetero, Indchemie and Torrent, many of which are also involved in the antitrust litigation.

The settlement provided licenses for the companies to market their Bystolic copycats. In response, direct purchasers sued, alleging that those settlements violated antitrust laws.

Bystolic lost patent protection on Dec. 17, 2021, and generics were able to launch three months prior to that on Sept. 18, thanks to the settlement agreement.

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Indeed, companies like Hetero, Torrent, Ascend and ANI Pharmaceutical have since deployed their versions of the hypertension med, according to OptumRx. OptumRx noted that IQVIA in September 2021 valued the annual U.S. market for Bystolic at roughly $1.05 billion.

Meanwhile, Bystolic hasn’t been a huge money-maker for AbbVie in recent years. The drug was missing in action in the company’s 2020 annual report, which noted that “no single patent, license, trademark” except for those related to Humira were “material in relation to the company’s business as a whole.”

Allergan, for its part, reaped $600 million from the drug in the U.S. in 2019.