Merck, Glenmark wrap up Zetia pay-for-delay case after pharmacies take settlement

Merck & Co. and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals can breathe easy after years of litigation around the cholesterol drug Zetia.

After settling with two groups of plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit last week, the drugmakers have now struck a deal with a clutch of retail pharmacy holdouts. This third deal resolves the wide-spanning case and allows the parties to avoid a jury trial.

To resolve the antitrust dispute and “avoid uncertainty,” Glenmark said it has agreed to shell out a total of $87.5 million over two years. The sum will go to a trio of plaintiff groups comprising direct purchasers, payers and pharmacy chains. Specifically, $48 million will go to the direct purchasers, $25.5 million to the retailers and $14 million to the payer plaintiffs, Glenmark said in a filing on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Glenmark denies “each and every one of the allegations” raised by the litigation and said the settlements aren’t an admission of liability or wrongdoing.

Court filings haven't laid out the specifics behind the deals, so it isn’t clear whether Merck is on the hook to pay a separate sum. The company did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

The case hinges on a 2010 settlement between Merck and Glenmark, which plaintiffs argued was used to stall the entry of Glenmark’s generic to Merck’s Zetia for nearly five years. Glenmark’s copycat became the first Zetia generic in the U.S. in late 2016.

The companies previously tried to secure summary judgment in the summer of 2020, but, this past February, a Virginia federal judge dismissed Merck and Glenmark’s bid, teeing up a jury trial that began April 19.

Just before jury selection last week, Merck and Glenmark struck accords with direct purchasers and payers in the case.

Alleged pay-for-delay schemes have become a common target for lawsuits in recent years, with several high-stakes cases wrapping up or kicking off in 2023. Novartis, for instance, agreed to pay a total of $245 million in separate deals with direct and indirect purchasers, plus retailers, back in January. Plaintiffs in that case accused the Swiss pharma of colluding with Endo’s Par Pharmaceutical to delay the launch of a generic version of Novartis’ high blood pressure drug Exforge.

Separately, Takeda in early April was accused of orchestrating a pay-for-delay scheme with Endo and other generics companies to ward off price declines on the gout drug Colcrys.