FTC aiming for $1B pay-for-delay patent settlement this year

Director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition Deborah Feinstein

The Federal Trade Commission is so fed up with "pay-for-delay" pharma deals, that it's hoping to reach a $1 billion settlement in at least one pharma antitrust case this year. That's the word from Deborah Feinstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, who revealed the agency's aims at a recent meeting of the American Bar Association's Section of Antitrust Law in Washington, D.C.

For years, the FTC has been targeting pay-for-delay settlements in patent lawsuits. When manufacturers of branded drugs pay off generics companies to get them to hold off on copycat products, that costs taxpayers money, the agency says. "The consumer harm there is extremely significant, and so we have a tremendous amount of resources there and hope to come out with a victory one way or another in those cases," Feinstein said of pay-for-delay at the meeting, according to PharmaTimes.

Pay-for-delay settlements between drugmakers and generic manufacturers have come under increased scrutiny of late, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that affirmed the FTC's right to challenge such deals. In an annual "highlights" report released at the ABA's antitrust meeting, the FTC said it would proceed with the suit that was the basis of that Supreme Court decision. The case alleges that Solvay Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the testosterone drug AndroGel later acquired by AbbVie ($ABBV), paid two generic drug manufacturers in a deal that delayed cheaper copies by 9 years.

In the highlights report, the FTC also vowed to continue to review Big Pharma mergers "with an eye to preserving competition for generic medications as well as emerging treatments." It cited as recent models its challenge of Mylan's ($MYL) proposed $1.85 billion acquisition of Agila Specialties, in which the commission demanded that the two companies divest 11 generic specialty drugs before allowing the merger to proceed. The FTC also pointed out that it required Actavis ($ACT) to sell off four generic drugs so that its $8.5 billion acquisition of Warner Chilcott wouldn't be anticompetitive.

"Promoting competition in the health care and pharmaceutical industries that reduces costs to consumers remains a top priority for the Commission," the FTC said in a statement accompanying the report.

- here's the FTC's statement
- read more about the FTC's pharma enforcement plans
- here's the PharmaTimes story

Special Reports: Top 10 generic drugmakers by 2012 revenue - Mylan - Actavis