Senate committee OKs pay-for-delay ban

The government crusade against "pay-for-delay" patent settlements continues--this time, in the U.S. A Senate panel voted to bar branded drugmakers from paying generics makers to back off their patent attacks, thus keeping copycat meds off the market. It's just one step toward actual legislation against the arrangements, which have grown in number and popularity in recent years. But it's a step, and in the current environment, a serious one.

The Federal Trade Commission has been fighting the deals, calling them anti-competitive. The agency has even battled specific patent settlements in court. And the fight has escalated since President Obama took office, with the Justice Department joining in. And the president himself supports a ban on the deals.

Meanwhile, antitrust regulators in the European Union have been raiding drugmakers, gathering evidence--and potential ammo--for a pay-for-delay challenge. A second wave of surprise raids took place just last week, with leading companies such as Sanofi-Aventis, Sandoz, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, and others visited by E.U. officials.

Both branded drugmakers and generics firms oppose a ban, obviously. So now that the Judiciary Committee has approved a U.S. ban 12-7, expect both segments of the pharma industry to lobby hard against it. Stay tuned.

- read the Reuters piece