In Zetia antitrust case, Merck and Glenmark ink deals with 2 plaintiff groups as retailers hold out

In February, a federal judge said Merck & Co. and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals would have to face a jury trial over an alleged pay-for-delay deal on the cholesterol med Zetia. Now, a pair of plaintiff groups has gotten in line behind settlement offers, but holdouts still could force the companies to defend themselves in court.

Just before jury selection this week, two clutches of plaintiffs—a smattering of direct purchasers and payers—reached settlement agreements with Merck and Glenmark, court documents show. The exact value of the agreements has not been revealed, though Glenmark disclosed (PDF) a $48 million charge tied to the direct purchaser accord in a recent filing on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Fierce Pharma has reached out to both companies for comment. This story will be updated as we learn more.

The five-year-old case revolves around a 2010 settlement in which Merck purportedly struck a deal with Glenmark to stifle generics of its former cholesterol blockbuster Zetia. Drug purchasers, payers and retailers filed their original suit in 2018 and amended the case the following year. The plaintiffs argued Merck paid Glenmark some $800 million in an “unlawful reverse-payment” to delay the launch of the Indian generic giant’s Zetia copycat for nearly five years.

Glenmark’s Zetia generic was the first to hit the market in December 2016.

Merck and Glenmark petitioned for a court judgment in August 2020, hoping to evade the lawsuit, but earlier this year, a federal judge in Virginia, Rebecca Beach Smith, scrapped that bid and told the companies they would have to plead their case before a jury. The trial was scheduled to kick off earlier this week.

Merck and Glenmark have “disputed these claims and defended these matters vigorously,” Glenmark noted in its filing. The company pointed out that its settlement should “make clear” that Glenmark “denies each and every one of the allegations against it and has not conceded or admitted any liability.”

After the purchaser and payer deals, the retail plaintiffs have to decide whether to press the case or settle. That group includes the major chains Albertsons, CVS Pharmacy, Giant Eagle, HEB Grocery, Rite Aid, Kroger and Walgreens, court filings show.

Merck and Glenmark’s isn’t the only pay-for-delay lawsuit rocking the industry this year.

In January, Novartis agreed to shell out a total of $245 million in separate deals with direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and retailers who accused the company of colluding with Endo’s Par Pharmaceutical to stall the launch of a generic version of the Swiss Pharma’s high blood pressure drug Exforge.

And earlier this month, Takeda was accused of orchestrating a “single conspiracy” or “multiple bilateral conspiracies” to protect against price declines on the gout medicine Colcrys. That case also concerns an alleged pay-for-delay with Endo’s Par unit plus other generics companies.