Pfizer quells 12 years of Lipitor antitrust litigation with $93M settlement

With a $93 million settlement, Pfizer can wash its hands of more than a decade's worth of antitrust litigation over the once-lucrative cholesterol med Lipitor.

For years, Pfizer and Sun Pharma’s Ranbaxy Laboratories have been engaged in litigation from drug purchasers accusing the companies of conspiring to delay Lipitor generics through an unlawful “reverse payment” agreement.

The plaintiffs first filed suit in 2011 and have since gone through “extensive mediation” with the companies, the purchasers’ attorneys noted in the 64-page settlement proposal.

Now, the deal just needs a judge’s stamp of approval to go through. If cleared, the settlement would offer plaintiffs “immediate economic relief,” through a cash payment, the lawyers added.

While Pfizer does not admit to any wrongdoing, certain “considerations” led the company to determine that the proposed settlement is “fair, reasonable and the best way to resolve this litigation,” a company representative said in an emailed statement.

“Pfizer firmly believes that all claims that have been or are asserted against Pfizer in this case are factually and legally without merit,” the spokesperson added.

Ranbaxy’s case, meanwhile, will continue. The Indian drugmaker was bought out by Sun Pharma in 2015.

Sun Pharma did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

Pfizer and Ranbaxy battled over Lipitor patents for five years until reaching a 2008 agreement that allowed the generics manufacturer to launch in the U.S. in late November of 2011 and on “varying dates” in seven other countries.

With the agreement, Pfizer handed over access to all the patents needed for Ranbaxy to produce the generic and allowed it six months of market exclusivity.

At the time, then-Pfizer pharma chief Ian Read called the deal a “win-win-win because it is pro-patient, pro-competition and pro-intellectual property."

Walgreen Co., Kroger Co., Safeway, SuperValu and HEB Grocery called the agreement part of an “overarching anticompetitive scheme” in a 2012 lawsuit. Many of the suits were consolidated into a class action lawsuit in 2013, although some cases still popped up after. The 2012 plaintiffs, or the “retailer” plaintiffs, were not included in the recent settlement agreement.

After its approval in the 1990s, Lipitor eventually became one of the world's best-selling drugs. From 1992 to 2017, the statin pulled a whopping $94.67 billion in U.S. sales.

Even though sales have slowed these days due to generic competition, the med is expected to come in third on the list of highest lifetime drug sales by 2028, behind Humira and Merck’s Keytruda, statistics platform Statista reports.