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Pharmacies Allege Antidepressant Manufacturers Depressed Generic Competition

Posted  June 22, 2012

CVS and Rite Aid pharmacies have filed an antitrust complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against Wyeth Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals for allegedly conspiring to keep generic versions of the popular antidepressant Effexor XR out of the hands of consumers.

The two pharmacies allege in Rite Aid Corp et al. v. Wyeth Inc. et al, that the anticompetitive conspiracy included fraudulently obtaining patents for Effexor XR and wrongfully using litigation to keep generic manufacturers of that antidepressant from entering the market.

The pharmacies claim that Wyeth, now part of Pfizer, obtained three patents by falsifying clinical data.  Wyeth’s data showed the extended release version of Effexor XR decreased nausea and vomiting, both side effects of the immediate-release version of the drug.

According to the complaint, after obtaining the patents through false data, Wyeth listed them in the FDA Orangebook, enabling Wyeth to bring lawsuits against 17 generic manufactures that wanted to produce a cheaper version of the drug.

Teva Pharmaceuticals was the first company to file suit against Wyeth.  Instead of further litigating, Teva agreed not to market a generic version of extended release Effexor XR until July 2010.

In exchange, Wyeth agreed to give Teva an “exclusive license” to sell a generic option and settled the other 16 lawsuits, which allowed Teva to control the market for a longer period of time.  For one year, Teva was the only company selling a generic version of the extended release antidepressant.

CVS and Rite Aid join several other companies in bringing antitrust claims against Wyeth and Teva.  A previous complaint was filed in the same federal court last November.

Effexor XR, or venlafaxine hydrochloride, is prescribed by doctors to treat major depressive disorder.  The mental health condition affects 6.7 percent of adults in the United States.  Women are 70 percent more likely to experience the disorder than men.

The plaintiffs in the two cases argue that Wyeth’s and Teva’s actions have inflated prices for their customers.  Reuters has reported that sales for brand name Effexor XR topped $2.5 billion during the period that Wyeth had control of the market.

Tagged in: Antitrust Litigation, Intellectual Property Law and Antitrust,