Sanofi readies defense as judge rules antitrust lawsuit can proceed

Sanofi Pasteur may find itself in the thick of an antitrust case after a judge ruled that a lawsuit alleging that the company illegally monopolized the market for meningococcal vaccines in the U.S. can move forward.

In December, several doctors said the company created a "web of noncompetitive contracts" with physician buying groups that blocked competition in an effort to sell its vaccine Menactra, Pharmalot reports. Using its market authority, Sanofi grouped price contracts, forcing purchasers to buy 90% or more of childhood vaccines to avoid potential cost penalties on Menactra, according to the news service. So, in theory, a buyer could end up paying 15% to 35% more for all Sanofi vaccines if they elect not to buy Menactra. The doctors surmise Sanofi's idea here was to promote its Menactra vaccine after Novartis ($NVS) joined the game with rival Menveo.

Furthermore, the lawsuit says the doctors were told, under contract, not to purchase vaccines from other makers--such as GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Novartis--or they would face penalties.

A Sanofi Pasteur spokesman wrote to Pharmalot, "naturally we are disappointed in the judge's ruling, but we are confident that once the court sees the evidence of competition in the marketplace, it will rule against the plaintiffs. We continue to defend our company and our product, and we maintain that allegations in the class action complaint are without merit."

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