The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Buoyed by Federal Covid Aid, Big Hospital Chains Buy Up Competitors. Billions of dollars in Covid aid cushioned financial losses caused by the pandemic at some of the nation’s largest hospital chains. But those bailouts also helped sustain the big chains’ spending sprees as they expanded even more by scooping up weakened competitors and doctors’ practices. More consolidation by several major hospital systems enhanced their market prowess in many regions of the United States, even as rural hospitals and underserved communities were overwhelmed with Covid patients and struggled to stay afloat. The buying spree is likely to prompt further debate and scrutiny of the Provider Relief Fund, a package of $178 billion in congressional aid that drew sharp criticism early on for allocating so much to the wealthiest hospital systems, and that had no limits on mergers and acquisitions.
Judge OKs classes in case accusing Ranbaxy of delaying generics. A federal judge has approved multiple classes in litigation accusing Indian generic drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd of delaying the launch of generic drugs by submitting false applications to U.S. regulators. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston certified classes of both direct purchasers, including drug wholesalers, and indirect purchasers, such as health plans and insurance companies. The plaintiffs have accused Ranbaxy of delaying the launch of generic versions of Novartis AG’s high blood pressure drug Diovan, Pfizer Inc’s acid reflux drug Nexium and Genentech Inc’s antiviral drug Valcyte.
Epic Games vs. Apple Trial Prepares for Closing Arguments. Epic Games Inc.’s courtroom battle against Apple Inc. is expected to end with a debate-style format in which the judge will drill each side with questions about their cases. The trial’s outcome will reverberate far outside the Oakland, Calif., courtroom as Apple faces scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and software developers who say the company exercises too much control and restricts competition within its App Store. Apple has pushed back against those claims, pointing to the competition it faces from other app stores and devices and the company’s desire to provide a seamless experience for users. The judge is expected to rule in the coming months. During the three-week trial, Epic has argued Apple is improperly blocking third-party app stores on its mobile devices and forcing developers to use its in-app payment system for all digital transactions, allowing it to collect a commission as high as 30%.
Coca Cola in EU antitrust regulators’ crosshairs. EU antitrust regulators have launched a preliminary investigation into Coca Cola Co), the European Commission said on Friday. “We can confirm that the Commission has sent out questionnaires, as part of its preliminary investigation into Coca Cola,” a Commission spokeswoman said. “The preliminary investigation is ongoing. We cannot comment on or predict its timing or outcome,” she said, declining to provide further details. Coca Cola said it received a formal request for information on Thursday.
Edited by Gary J. Malone