'Monopoly' allowed Bristol Myers and generics makers to 'steal' from Revlimid purchasers, lawsuit says

The courtroom drama surrounding Bristol Myers Squibb and its subsidiary Celgene over their efforts to restrict competition for lymphoma drug Revlimid has raged for more than a decade.

And it's not going away any time soon as three union pension funds have brought a class action antitrust suit in New Jersey against Bristol Myers and a raft of generic drugmakers for allegedly conspiring to restrict competition on Revlimid and share in the profits.

Revlimid won its first approval in the United States in 2005. Five years later, Natco created a generic version of the drug, triggering a patent infringement lawsuit from Celgene. Since then, Celgene and BMS have been in court fending off Natco and other producers of generics with so-called "pay-for-delay" deals.

In addition to Natco, other generics manufacturers named in the suit are Mylan, Teva, Dr. Reddy’s, Lotus, Alvogen, Cipla, Apotex, Zydus and Cadila.

BMS did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Patent settlements—like the one Dr. Reddy’s inked with BMS in 2020—delayed the generic companies' entry into the market with their copycats until pre-specified dates. Dr. Reddy's deal also featured a limited-volume generic launch starting earlier this year.

Deals such as these allowed BMS and the generics makers to maintain their monopoly, the lawsuit alleges, and keep prices high. Fair competition would have resulted in a price of $800 for a 30-day supply of Revlimid, the lawsuit says.

“Defendants instead are able to charge more than $18,000 for the brand version and to sell the generic version for nearly the same price,” the complaint reads, adding that the alleged antitrust violations allowed the companies to “steal more than $30 billion from Revlimid purchasers.”

This isn’t the first go-round with litigation over Revlimid. Two years ago, Celgene agreed to a $55 million settlement with patients and payers over allegations it illegally blocked competition to Revlimid and another multiple myeloma med, Thalomid.

But the deal unraveled when Celgene exercised an option to back out if certain plaintiffs didn’t participate. In all, more than 8,000 patients and 800 payers opted in, while 80 plaintiffs opted out to bring their own lawsuits.

The new lawsuit points out that U.S. sales of Revlimid jumped from $3.5 billion in 2016 to $8.7 billion in 2021. Celgene and BMS sold more than $40 billion worth of the drug in the U.S. because of their "unlawful monopoly," the plaintiffs allege.

BMS acquired Celgene, and the lucrative drug Revlimid, in a 2019 buyout worth around $74 billion.