Astellas dodges trial over alleged Prograf generics delay

Astellas tweaked its plans for Tuesday, the day a trial was set to start over an alleged scheme to delay generics of immune-suppressant drug Prograf. Instead of heading to court, the Japanese pharma agreed to settle a handful of lawsuits, it announced.

Terms of the agreement between Astellas and the Louisiana Wholesale Drug Co. and other distributers--who filed at least 5 lawsuits in 2011 against the company, Bloomberg reports--weren't disclosed in a Boston federal court filing, according to the news service.

The suits harken back to 2007, when wholesalers say Astellas tried to illegally keep a hold on the market for Prograf by filing a "sham" FDA petition to require safety and efficacy tests for generics, Bloomberg says. But the FDA rejected the petition, and generics arrived on the scene in 2009 with a copy from Novartis' ($NVS) Sandoz unit.

Wholesalers aren't the only ones who haven't taken so kindly to the idea of pharma companies blocking copycat rivals. In 2013, a Supreme Court ruling affirmed the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) right to challenge so-called "pay-for-delay" deals between drugmakers and generic manufacturers, in which companies pay off their rivals to hold off on launching their competing products for a certain length of time.

And since then, the FTC has doubled down on its efforts to bring an end to the practice. Last March, Deborah Feinstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, said she was hoping to score a $1 billion settlement in at least one pharma antitrust.

- get more from Bloomberg

Special Report: Top 10 generics makers by 2012 revenue