Archive for the ‘antitrust’ Category
Friday, June 14th, 2013
In the next two weeks, the Supreme Court will likely rule in the FTC v. Actavis case, and decide whether pay-for-delay – when drug companies pay their competitors to not introduce a competing generic product – can continue. The Boston Globe editorial board noted that “few cases before the Supreme Court this session could have more direct impact on consumers’ pocketbooks” than this one. Consumers have “billions of dollars on the line” with the Court’s decision. (USA Today). This increasingly common practice of pay-for-delay affects generic versions of as many as 142 different brand-name drugs, according to our analysis of FTC reports.
In an open letter to the Court released today, 31 state and national organizations urge the court to end these back-room pay-for-delay deals. These groups – health plans, disability advocates, providers, and consumer advocates — all know the most effective way to lower a drug’s cost, and make it broadly affordable, is to make sure a generic becomes available as soon as possible.
We saw proof of this last year, when spending on brand-name drugs declined in the United States for the first time in more than a decade, largely due to the wave of new generic drugs that became available in late 2011 and during 2012. Drugs like Lipitor and Plavix, which cost more than $200 a month, became available as generics for less than $20 a month. Tens of millions of people switched to the generic prescriptions.
A good ruling by the Court on ‘pay-for-delay’ will help protect consumers from what the Washington Post calls “illegal collusion” by the drug companies. The Court’s impending ruling will impact the ongoing out-of-pocket costs for consumers.
And as millions of currently uninsured consumers are slated to join public and private health plans in a few short months under the Affordable Care Act, true competition between drugmakers is a critical component to keeping health care accessible and affordable.
In the prescription drug market, like many marketplaces, we all rely upon competition to drive down prices, and on regulation to prevent collusion and preserve healthy competition. For this reason, our nation’s anti-trust officials – State Attorneys-General and the FTC – are all asking the Supreme Court for the chance to enforce anti-trust laws. The Court should rule against pay-for-delay, and give regulators the chance to promote competition, and help make drugs more affordable for millions of consumers.
Friday, May 24th, 2013
TAKE ACTION FOR LOWER DRUG COSTS! STOP PHARMA’S BACKROOM DEALS!
Working with consumer advocates across the country, Consumer Catalyst has launched a campaign to stop ‘Pay-for-Delay’ deals that hurt consumer health!
What you can do:
- Sign the consumer petition on Change.org
- Join the discussion on twitter and share your story, using the hashtag: Stop the #RxRacket! And ask others to share their stories too. Also follow us at @postscriptrx.
- Join our community on Facebook to keep up with the campaign and join our email list of impacted consumers by sharing your story.
You can also tell us your story, if you are interested in joining us as a consumer advocate and speaking out on these issues to local media.
Pharmaceutical companies are colluding to keep drug prices high – and taking that money right out of your pocket.
Did you know drug companies have made more than 160 secret, back-room deals that
- Have kept 100 generic drugs or more off the market for years
- Drive up the cost of each drug by an average of $3,000 a year
- Keep all of our prescription costs high, while divvying up the spoils!
Right now, the Supreme Court is currently deliberating over whether these back-room deals are legal – but we know they’re wrong. Since 2005, as many as 142 different generic drugs have been unfairly kept from consumers, according to government reports. Delaying the launch of a generic drug lets the drug companies make bigger and bigger profits, while patients are stuck footing the bill, or going without the medicines they need.
The Supreme Court heard arguments by the drug companies, and fortunately Justices Kagan and Sotomayor raised consumer concerns – but the Court did not hear the perspective of the thousands of Americans unable to afford their medications. That’s because most people don’t even know that these deals are costing consumers thousands, and our health system billions of extra dollars, each year!
Help us raise awareness of this #RxRacket. The public deserves to know how this decision will affect us all – how thousands of Americans are being forced to choose between skipping their medications or going into credit card debt, just so that drug companies can make even more profit. Not to mention, how health care costs for everyone have gone up, because insurers pay most of these higher costs!
Whatever the Supreme Court decides, help spread the word, so we can help make sure that these deals come to an end, once and for all.
If you have taken Cipro, Provigil, or Androgel, you have definitely paid more because of a pay-for-delay settlement. And according to legal experts, it is very probable that many drugs including blockbuster drugs like Lipitor, Plavix and Nexium — have been delayed by pay-for-delay deals.*
We need you to tell everyone you know that this is happening, and help gather and share the stories of people you know that have been negatively impacted. Read the stories shared by two women, Tanna and Karen, who were unable to afford their medications due to pay-for-delay deals that kept generic Provigil off the market for six years. Also, read how the companies’ legal arguments make no sense.
You can find all the information you would ever need about this issue on our Pay-for-Delay info page. Please also feel free to add your thoughts on this #RxRacket in the comments, below.
Thank you for helping us protect your right to affordable medicine!
*The Full List – Drugs Likely to Have High Prices from ‘Pay-for-Delay’ Deals:
Adderall XR, Aggrenox, Altace, Arthrotec, Caduet, Carbatrol, Clarinex, Comtan, Duac, Effexor XR, Eloxatin, Ethyol, Femcon Fe, Fentora, Flomax, Lipitor, Lamictal, Levaquin, Lexapro, Loestrin-24 Fe, Loprox, Lotrel, Lybrel, Namenda, Naprelan, Nexium, Niaspan, Niravam, Olux, Opana ER, Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo, Oxytrol, Plavix, Propecia, Razadyne, Razadyne ER, Rythmol SR, Sinemet CR, Skelaxin, Solodyn, Stalevo, Tricor 145mg, Vanos, Vfend, Wellbutrin XL (150 mg), Xopenex, and Zantac!
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Did you know?
Pharmaceutical companies are colluding to keep drug prices high – and taking that money right out of your pocket.
Help us stop them:
have you faced problems getting the drugs you need? Have you had to skip doses, not fill certain prescriptions, or make hard choices about whether to pay for your medications or other expenses?
as a consumer advocate, and fight to stop drug companies from using their wealth and power to buy off the competition.
Monday, March 25th, 2013
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit about a drug company’s ability to pay a competitor to keep a generic drug off the market—so-called “pay-for-delay” settlements. Unfortunately, most of the arguments dealt with how corporations do business, and not how these deals affect consumers. Nevertheless, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor both acknowledged the potential for consumer harm. We at Community Catalyst think this decision will affect the affordability of prescription drugs for millions of Americans.
What is the lawsuit about?
The lawsuit, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) v. Actavis (informally referred to as “The Androgel Case”), is the government’s challenge to what former FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has called “an epidemic” of brand name drug companies paying competitors to delay launching a new generic version of a brand name drug. According to annual reports by the FTC, 165 of these secret deals have blocked generic versions of 140 different brand name drugs.
Delaying competition from generics is the highest priority for brand name drug makers trying to hold on to their profits. A decade ago, brand name drug makers would file one patent infringement lawsuit after another, to delay a generic as long as possible. But Congress put a stop to this in late 2003, requiring all patent challenges be brought at the same time.
So the brand name drug industry shifted to a new tactic – paying their competitors to delay generics. Under anti-trust law, paying off your competitors is clearly prohibited. But the drug companies have muddied the waters by dragging patent litigation into their dealings.
Unfortunately, the incentive for drug companies to collude is enormous because these pay-for-delay agreements are a win-win for brand name and generic manufacturers. Brand name companies continue to charge high prices and make billions or hundreds of millions on their blockbuster drugs, while the generic company is paid from these high profits to put their generic drug aside and do nothing.
The all too clear losers are consumers, who miss out on the chance for lower-priced generics, or who are forced to pay higher premiums to cover all the health plan members who do take an affected drug.
Delaying generic versions of a drug has serious financial and health impacts on individual patients.
A 2010 FTC report estimates when a pay-for-delay agreement affects just one drug, it can cost each consumer, and his or her health insurer, an extra $4,500 over a year and a half. If the consumer takes more than one drug, the costs could be inflated by $9,000 during the same time period.
For instance, Provigil’s manufacturer, Cephalon Corporation, paid $136 million to four different generic drug companies, who then agreed not to sell a generic version of Provigil for six years. During that time, Cephalon made more than $3.1 billion on Provigil sales. While the drug companies profited, consumers were devastated as the price of Provigil skyrocketed from $300 a month in 2007 to more than $1,000 per month in 2010. As a result, Cephalon was sued by the FTC and class-action attorneys on behalf of consumers.
Indirectly, all our health care premiums and other health care costs have also gone up because pay-for-delay deals have forced our health plans to pay up to ten times as much for a brand-name drug that has no generic. For example, brand-name drugs like Lipitor and Plavix cost more than $200 a month, but their generics versions cost less than $20. Many suspect pay-for-delay deals blocked generic Lipitor and Plavix for several years, while consumers and health plans wasted billions on these two best-selling blockbuster drugs.
The FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorneys-General in 36 states and consumer advocates have all asked the court to end this practice and allow the nation’s antitrust laws to do their job to restore competition and help lower prices.
The Prescription Access Litigation project at Community Catalyst has helped consumers and insurers file class action lawsuits to challenge pay-for-delay deals that have blocked consumer’s access to affordable generic versions of the drugs Provigil, Cipro, Oxycontin, K-Dur, and Tamoxifen. We have also helped dozens of consumer advocacy, senior, labor and patient groups join legal briefs or support reforms in Congress.
For more information on Pay-for-delay agreements, go here. To tell us ‘Your Story’ about one of these drugs, or any other drug you cannot afford, go here.
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Second Circuit takes a pass on reviewing the legality of pay-for-delay settlements
A negative court decision before the Second Circuit this week underscores the importance of passing federal legislation to ban ‘pay-for-delay’ settlements in order to preserve access to affordable, quality prescription drug benefits. At issue is the drug industry practice of paying off generic competitors of expensive brand-name drugs to delay access to low-cost generics. See our earlier blogs here and here.
On Tuesday, the Second Circuit issued a decision on the legality of pay-for-delay settlements concerning the drug Cipro that dealt a blow to consumer advocates and consumer protection attorneys challenging these collusive agreements in court. The decision rebuffed the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and a group of State Attorneys-General, all of whom asked the Court to re-evaluate an earlier precedent from 2005 that allowed such ‘pay-for-delay’ settlements.
While the attorneys ponder whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, the importance of a legislative solution to this problem becomes even more clear.
Current legislation before the U.S. Senate proposed by Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) would create a presumption that any drug patent settlement that exchanges a payment in return for an agreement to delay bringing a generic to the market is a violation of anti-trust law. The bill gives the FTC the tools to challenge such settlements. However, it still allows the drug companies to prove that a settlement is not a collusive agreement, but a legitimate effort to avoid the time and costs of litigation.
Why is a ban on pay-for-delay settlements important? Since 2005, Congress has responded to concerns about potential collusion by requiring the drug industry to file any settlement of patent litigation concerning a generic drug under seal with the FTC. Since 2004, the FTC has reviewed these settlements, and found that an increasing number of ‘pay-for-delay’ sweetheart deals have been made since the courts started to allow them in 2005. Last fiscal year, a record 19 such pay-for-delay deals were made. By the nine month mark of this fiscal year on June 30, the record was broken, with 21 new pay-for-delay settlements.
These settlements have prevented billions of dollars in possible savings, by preventing generic drugs from being available. At a time when consumer advocacy groups like AARP are documenting exhorbitant price increases for brand-name drugs, generic drugs are the best solution. Another recent report found that every 2% increase in generic use saves Medicaid $1 billion a year.
The FTC, which reviews these agreements, reported in January 2010 that $20 billion dollars in annual brand-name drug spending was being insulated from generic competition by pay-for-delay sweetheart deals. Then, in July, the FTC reported that new pay-for-delay deals were shielding another $9 billion in drug spending from market competition.
How does this impact consumers? The FTC reports that pay-for-delay settlements keep a generic drug off the market for an average of 17 months. The FTC estimates that being forced to take a brand-name drug costing $300 per month, instead of a generic costing $30, would increase a consumer’s health cost by $4,590 over that 17-month period. Drugs that cost more, or that have longer delays, will cost even more.
If a robust, competitive market is to play a role in our new health care system, shielding nearly ten percent of all annual brand-name drug sales from market competition will only allow drug company price increases to continue depleting more and more of our health care resources, while putting more patient care at risk.
In a brief filed with the court, the AMA and AARP described having access to a generic drug improves the quality of patient care:
The price of a brand drug can be prohibitive for uninsured patients who do not have help covering the cost of their prescription drugs. Even for those patients who are insured but who are on fixed or limited incomes, having a generic option is often the difference between having access to a health care treatment and not having any treatment option at all.
And the lawsuit filed by PAL member AFSCME District Council 37in 2006 is challenging the pay-for-delay settlements concerning the drug Provigil, used to treat narcolepsy. This lawsuit has revealed how the lack of competition reduces patients’ quality of life or quality of care when an insurance company refuses to pay for a high-cost brand-name drug. A pastor from Ohio reports that after
paying almost $17,000 in annual premiums for my family [health insurance plan, l] ast year, I was paying around $650/month [for Provigil. I]t now costs me $852/month. That is out of pocket money I have to come up with until later in the year when I reach my deductable and I can enjoy a few months of only paying $60/month. I cannot describe to you how much stress and difficulty this has caused for me and my family the last several years. As you can imagine, with my income, I often cannot afford to refill my prescription. I often take 1/2 or 3/4 of my dosage on days I know I won’t be driving much so I can delay getting a refill. But I do a lot of driving for my work, so I am forced to spend lots of money I don’t have just so I can be safe driving.
To find out how you can support legislation to prevent these pay-for-delay settlements, please contact us!
Friday, July 30th, 2010
The last year has been a roller coaster-ride of both successes and set-backs in the fight to eliminate pay-for delay settlements. These multi-million dollar sweetheart deals have been used more and more by brand-named drug makers to get their generic competitors to agree to delay bringing affordable generics to the market.
A bill to ban these agreements was included in the House’s health care reform proposal last fall, and a similar measure was supported by the White House and considered by the Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate’s procedural and jurisdictional rules kept the measure from being included in the national health reform bill enacted in March.
Undeterred, leaders in the House then included the measure in an appropriations bill approved on July 1st. But the Senate passed one appropriations bill on July 22 without the provision. In the aftermath of this setback, consumer champion Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) and others succeeded in including this vital reform as an amendment to the FTC’s budget authorization. Kohl and others then overcame the next major hurdle yesterday, narrowly stopping drug industry lobbyist efforts to strip the measure in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Yesterday’s vote was a dramatic one. Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduced an amendment to remove the pay-for-delay provision from the Committee bill. When four Democrats voted with Specter to strip away the pay-for-delay provision, the AP reports that:
“Drug company lobbyists in the audience thought they had the vote won, provided they could win over every panel Republican. But Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., voted against the drug companies, helping give Kohl and Durbin [the author of the Appropriations Bill] a surprise win.”
Recent settlements shielding $9 Billion in drug spending from generic competition
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has consistently challenged these anti-competitive agreements in the courts and through testimonies before Congress, called yesterday’s vote a significant victory. FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz testified before Congress earlier this week that these types of pay-for-delay agreements, which delay the entry of generic drugs, are becoming more common (see graph). Legal decisions permitting these agreements have led to their proliferation from none in 2004 to a former high of 19 such agreements in 2009. The FTC notes that in just the first 9 months, the number of pay-for-delay settlements in fiscal year 2010 has already topped last year’s record high.
Graph: Federal Trade Commission
The FTC’s preliminary analysis of the agreement filed this fiscal year concludes that 21 pay-for-delay agreements entered into this year are protecting $9 billion in prescription drug sales from generic competition. Combined with the earlier agreements in effect, this could mean that as much as $29 billion in annual spending on drugs are improperly shielded from generic challengers. That is a significant loss of possible savings. The FTC estimates (conservatively, in our opinion) that these settlements are costing consumers and our health system at least $3.5 billion a year.
FTC has continued to raise the alarm about these settlements, and their effect upon consumers. In a press release coinciding with testimony before Congress, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz summed it up:
“That’s almost an epidemic,” Chairman Leibowitz said, “and left untreated, these types of settlements will continue to insulate more and more drugs from competition. Every single FTC Commissioner, going back through the Bush and Clinton administrations, has supported stopping these unconscionable agreements.”
On the legal front, PAL continues to support efforts to do away will these settlements. PAL and AFSCME District Council 37 filed an amicus brief in May in support of the Second Circuit’s reconsideration of the legality of these agreements in the Cipro litigation. And the PAL-member lawsuit challenging the pay-for-delay settlements concerning Provigil continues.
FTC Chairman Leibowitz testified that some of these recent events, such as the Second Circuits Cipro decision and the fact that the House has already passed a ban on these settlements, gives him “reason to believe that the tide may be turning, both in the courts and in Congress.” Yet, Chairman Leibowitz wisely cautioned that bringing about such a reform through the Courts will take time, which means that “legislation would be the most effective way to stop these deals.”
Thus the successful Senate Committee vote yesterday “means that consumers are one step closer to saving billions on their prescription drugs” according to Leibowitz. And help can’t come too soon. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Herb Kohl, points out why:
“The cost of brand-named drugs rose nearly ten percent last year. In contrast, the cost of generic drugs fell by nearly ten percent. At this time of spiraling health care costs, we cannot turn a blind eye to these anticompetitive backroom deals that deny consumers access to affordable generic drugs.”
We view yesterday’s decision as a crucial step to put legislation in place to end these agreements and foster consumer access to affordable generic drugs.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Today’s New York Times reports that PHARMA has finally staked out their agenda in health care reform – avoiding cost controls, and keeping generics off the market.
An undisclosed deal announced this past Sunday between the drug industry, Sen. Baucus, and the Obama administration would help pay as much as half the cost of brand name drugs for seniors in the costly ‘donut hole’ under Medicare. (Currently, a Prescription Drug Plan regulated under Medicare Part D pays three fourths of the first $2,700 in yearly prescription costs, but then stops at the ‘donut hole.’ This forces the consumer to pay all of the next $3,454 in costs out of pocket. Medicare Part D coverage starts back up when the drug costs exceed $6,100.)
Due in part to the continually rising costs of prescription drugs, a fourth of Medicare beneficiaries hit their donut hole. One out of seven of the seniors who hit the donut hole then stop taking their medications due to cost.
A White House spokesperson notes that the deal would save these elderly consumers $30 billion over the next 10 years, but that an additional $50 billion would go to the federal government over the next decade, possibly in the form of rebates to Medicaid or other federal programs purchasing drugs.
While proposals to control or reduce drug costs are needed, our experience with drug pricing fraud by the drug industry teaches us that reliable and transparent price benchmarks are needed to keep this proposal from being a sham. For instance, a nationwide class action lawsuit by PAL members revealed that drug wholesaler McKesson Corp. manipulated reported prices that were used as reimbursement benchmarks, which cost Medicaid, private insurers, and consumers over $7 billion from 2001 to 2005. Another PAL class action lawsuit revealed that over 13 of the largest drug manufacturers engaged in a scheme between 1991 and 2004 to inflate their reported reimbursement prices on doctor-administered drugs, costing Medicare part B, insurers, and consumers billions of dollars.
Finally, a government report from 2006 showed that even when the federal government negotiates contracts with drug makers that guarantee federally funded community health centers the best possible price, the drug industry failed to comply with the contracts, costing hundreds of millions of dollars each month, and possibly billions of dollars a year. In this case, lax monitoring and enforcement by HHS left community health centers and other front-line government programs with little recourse.
These lawsuits and other lessons illustrate the need for full transparency, to allow consumers advocates to monitor progress, and ensure that Medicare consumers truly benefit from this proposal.
In addition to heading off cost controls, the other prong of the drug industry’s agenda is to shoulder aside their generic competitors. As pointed out in today’s Wall Street Journal, this ‘discount program’ may actually discourage seniors on Medicare from switching to less expensive generic drugs.
PHARMA has also come out against legislation that would prevent brand name drug companies from paying their generic rivals to delay bringing new generics to the market. These “pay-for-delay” settlements have become common since 2005, and have cost consumers and insurers an estimated $12 billion a year in lost savings.
For instance, the current class action lawsuit by PAL member AFSCME District Council 37 has challenged multiple settlements between Cephalon Corp. and generic manufacturers Teva, Barr, Mylan, and Ranbaxy. These settlements, totaling up to $136 million dollars, have stopped all four of these generic companies from bringing a generic version of the drug Provigil to the market.
The House version of the bill to prevent “pay-for-delay” settlements, HR 1706, passed an important hurdle on June 3rd, when it was approved by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, and sent to the full Committee on Energy and Commerce. The NY Times reports that the Senate version of the bill, S. 369, is poised for a vote this week.
The Times article noted that President Obama’s budget criticized these settlements as “anticompetitive agreements” that keep generic drugs off the market. The FTC, which continues to challenge the anti-competitive nature of these settlements in court, sees consumers being harmed. FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said that allowing these settlements to continue would cost consumers tens of billions of dollars in the next decade. According to the Times, Mr. Leibowitz cautioned that
“Drug companies are lobbying furiously against the legislation because they want to preserve their monopoly profits at the expense of consumers.”
The Times article also made clear that Pharma has launched their own dis-information campaign on the bills. Pharma made the outrageous claims that these anti-competitive agreements benefitted consumers because they “avoided litigation and allowed generic drugs to enter the market before drug patents expired.”
However, in case after case (K-Dur, Tamoxifen, Cipro) these settlements have prevented generic versions of brand name drugs from becoming available to consumers. How?
These settlements, often for many millions of dollars, allow brand name companies to ‘buy-off’ their generic competitors with multi-million dollar payments that are far in excess of the profit margin on a new generic drug. This lets the brand name drug continue its exclusive sales, guaranteeing them hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars free from competition.
These “pay-for-delay” settlements are likely to arise in current litigation on the validity of patents for the drugs OxyContin, Protonix. and Wellbutrin.
You can help. Please contact your Congressperson or Senator, and urge them to support HR. 1706/S. 369. If you are part of an organization, please contact us to sign on to a letter of support of these bills.
Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Recently, we posted an entry here titled “What is Abbott trying to hide? Maker of Norvir asks Court to deny public the right to see documents.” We’re pleased to report that the Court denied Abbott’s motion to keep some documents under seal. We analyze these documents below.
In 2003, Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) raised the price of its HIV/AIDS drug Norvir (ritonavir) by 400% overnight. Norvir is used in combination with other “protease inhibitors,” (PIs) and it “boosts” the effectiveness of the PI it’s used with. Abbott also makes a combination pill called Kaletra that includes both Norvir and its own PI – when they raised the price of Norvir, they didn’t raise the price of Kaletra.
Prescription Access Litigation coalition member SEIU Health and Welfare Fund filed a national class action lawsuit against Abbott. The lawsuit claimed that Abbott violated federal anti-trust laws, alleging that Abbott raised Norvir’s price in order to boost sales of Kaletra, at the expense of competing PI drugs that require Norvir as a booster. In a nutshell, the lawsuit argued that Abbott tried to “leverage” its patent-protected monopoly over Norvir into a monopoly over the market for protease inhibitors.
As we’ve discussed before, Abbott has fought throughout the litigation to keep documents regarding the price increase of Norvir sealed. Abbott’s lawyers recently argued that a set of documents that they wanted shielded from public view contain “highly confidential information related to … how Abbott analyzes, views and makes strategic business decisions in the HIV pharmaceutical market.” [Order, p2.
But after a Judge recently ordered some of the documents unsealed (a copy of the Judge’s order is here) it became clear why Abbott wanted to keep what was in these documents hidden from public view.
First, these documents revealed Abbott’s disregard of how a price increase would affect HIV/AIDS patients. An email from Abbott executive Jesus Leal shows three strategies that Abbott considered to drive up sales of Kaletra, despite the potential interference with patients’ existing or future treatment regimens.
One strategy was to sell Norvir in three ways: as an ingredient in Kaletra, as a separate pill priced at five times its former price, or at the original price in a liquid form that Abbott executives admit tasted “like someone else’s vomit.” Given that many protease inhibitors have nausea as a possible side effect, even considering a strategy that would force the many HIV patients who could not afford a five-fold price increase resort to taking the foul-tasting liquid Norvir is reprehensible.
Another strategy considered was to stop selling Norvir altogether, and offer only Kaletra. But switching to Kaletra is not medically appropriate for many HIV/AIDS patients, because they eventually have to change to different PI drugs as the virus mutates and becomes resistant. A premature switch to Kaletra would deprive patients of a treatment option that they would otherwise have held in reserve until absolutely necessary.
Further, one side effect of Kaletra is hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), which leads to higher risks of heart attack and stroke. Thus Kaletra may be less appropriate for some HIV patients than other treatments which combine Norvir(ritonavir) and other PI drugs as necessary.
Abbott considered – and eventually adopted -- a third strategy – continue selling Kaletra, but increase Norvir’s price to five times its former price. Since this time, Kaletra sales have grown significantly, from $400 million in 2003, to between $682 and $900 million in 2004, and $1.14 billion in 2006.
Exhibit 18 also reveals that Abbott planned to argue that their price increase was necessary because it was “no longer feasible for Abbott to provide a production line of Norvir capsules at the current price.” Abbott executives speculated that a price increase had a notable weakness - the company would face “exposure on price if forced to open books.” They were right. Their own released documents show that it was profit motivations and market factors, not ‘feasibility’ that caused Abbott’s unconscionable 400% price increase of the widely needed drug Norvir.
It is apparent from these documents that patient and consumer concerns were secondary to, if not absent from, Abbott’s financial considerations. One released document [Exhibit 39] has a chart summarizing a proposed slide presentation on the price increase. Not surprisingly, the one slide summary labeled “Public Relations and Activist Slide” has no summary at all, just a question mark “(?).” This shows that Abbott knew that it would be lambasted by activists for its unconscionable price increase, and that there was no good response to this criticism.
The only remorse or reservation shown in these documents was a comment by Abbott’s Vice President of Global Pharmaceutical Development, John M. Leonard, M.D. He responded to Abbott’s proposals to limit access to Norvir “I think we are on the right (but uncomfortable) track.” [Exhibit 28] ‘Uncomfortable’ is a gross understatement given that the price hike Abbott was proposing increased the annual cost of Norvir for an uninsured patient from $1,300 to $6,600 a year.
The true purpose of the price increase demonstrated: Boost Kaletra sales
The documents also showed that Abbott quintupled the price of Norvir in response to the declining market share of Kaletra relative to protease inhibitors made by competitors. Kaletra sold almost $400 million in 2003 but new PI drugs having fewer side-effects made by other drug companies threatened Kaletra’s future sales.
One slide summary in Exhibit 28 shows that Abbott knowingly increased Norvir’s price in order to push the cost of using a competing drug Reyataz to a “significantly higher price.” This, Abbott speculated, would create “formulary pressures” i.e. pressures on insurers to cover Kaletra instead of Reyataz, or to increase the co-payment that consumers would have to pay for Reyataz.
Another slide summary showed that Abbott saw the treatment improvements from Reyataz not as a boon to HIV/AIDS treatment and to patients, but as a form of unfair gain by their competitor Bristol-Meyers-Squibb (BMS) at the expense of Abbott. Ironically, Abbott didn’t consider raising its price by 400% to be unfair gain at the expense of HIV/AIDS patients.
These released documents don’t reveal much about Abbott’s price hike that wasn’t already known (see, for instance, an article that originally ran in the Wall Street Journal here) but they do reinforce how coldly calculating Abbott was in considering how best to put profits before HIV/AIDS patients.
Abbott recently submitted a Motion for Summary Judgment to the Court hearing the Norvir class action. If this motion is denied, a trial in the case is currently scheduled for August 2008.
Readers, what do you think of the released documents? Do they change your opinion of Abbott? Or just reinforce it? Please post your thoughts in the comments.
And by the way, here are links to all the documents the Court agreed to unseal:
Monday, February 25th, 2008
On February 14, we reported that the Federal Trade Commission is suing Cephalon (NasdaqGS:CEPH) for paying off four generic drug companies not to bring a generic version of its sleepiness drug, Provigil to market. Several of our coalition members have been involved in a class action lawsuit against Cephalon for the same conduct for several years.
Today, Jon Leibowitz, one of the five members of the Federal Trade Commission, has an op-ed in the Washington Post, “This Pill Not To Be Taken With Competition: How Collusion Is Keeping Generic Drugs Off the Shelves” about the suit and its importance. Here are a few excerpts:
Cephalon was entitled to defend its patent in court. Instead, it fought back unfairly. The company paid the competing manufacturers more than $200 million in exchange for their agreements to keep their products off the market for nearly seven years. This payoff benefited the generic manufacturers enormously: They made more by sitting on their hands than they ever could have the old-fashioned way, by entering the market and competing. For Cephalon, too, the payoff was a bargain: Chief executive Frank Baldino Jr. acknowledged that it made about $4 billion “that no one expected.”
Who has to foot the $4 billion bill? Consumers, employers, insurers and the government — who have no choice but to pay the higher price for brand-name Provigil.
So while we are all forced to foot this bill, Cephalon is earning an impressive 2000% return on their “investment” of $200 million in paying off the generics. ($4 billion / $200 million = 2000%). This amply demonstrates that the loopholes the Courts have carved in Hatch-Waxman don’t just invite brand name drug companies to defend even what Leibowitz calls “infirm” patents and to pay off generic companies — they actively encourage such tactics – what pharmaceutical executive could resist a 2000% return on investment? Arguably these so-called “reverse payment settlements” are one of the best investments in pharma — perhaps even better than true research and development.
But this crucial benefit [of generics coming to market earlier] is threatened by a disturbing trend: the emergence of “pay-for-delay” settlements and the willingness of some federal courts to permit such obviously anticompetitive agreements. When these troubling deals first came to light in the late 1990s, the FTC fought them — and stopped them cold. Between 2000 and 2004, no brand and generic companies entered pay-for-delay deals; in other words, companies resolved patent disputes without anticompetitive payoffs.
Unfortunately, that success is under siege. Two federal appeals courts — in rulings that conflict with the analysis of a third appellate court — have found that a brand-name drug company facing a patent challenge is free to pay any amount to keep a generic producer from entering the market until the patent expires. These rulings depart from the spirit of Hatch-Waxman and our nation’s antitrust laws, and they harm consumers by subverting the competition at the heart of our free-market system.
One irony is that in one of these cases, concerning the prescription potassium supplement K-Dur, the Administration’s own Solicitor General sabotaged the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to get the Supreme Court to review that case and this practice more broadly. (Here‘s the Solicitor General’s brief to the Supreme Court.)
Not surprisingly, after two courts blessed such payoffs, the frequency of these settlements has increased sharply. In fiscal 2006, fully half of all pharmaceutical patent settlements (14 of 28) contained such payments. Brand-name manufacturers, seeing the potential to continue reaping monopoly profits, have taken advantage of this apparent judicial leniency. Since some courts are allowing it, who can blame the companies? They have a duty to their shareholders to maximize profits.
Our case against Cephalon, which may ultimately reach the Supreme Court, will determine more than whether Americans taking Provigil are left to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should for their medication. It will also determine whether the courts have effectively demolished the Hatch-Waxman Act and whether early generic competition will end altogether. If Cephalon prevails, generic companies will stop trying to be the first to compete; they will instead try to be the first to be paid not to compete.
And therein lies the case’s true significance.
Thursday, February 14th, 2008
The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that it has filed a lawsuit against Cephalon for paying off four generic drug companies not to bring a generic version of its sleepiness drug, Provigil to market. As the FTC’s press release says:
The Federal Trade Commission today filed a complaint in federal district court against Cephalon, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Frazer, Pennsylvania, for a course of anticompetitive conduct that is preventing competition to its branded drug Provigil. The conduct includes paying four firms to refrain from selling generic versions of Provigil until 2012. Cephalon’s anticompetitive scheme, the FTC states, denies patients access to lower-cost, generic versions of Provigil and forces consumers and other purchasers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year more for Provigil.
According to the Commission’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Cephalon entered into agreements with four generic drug manufacturers that each planned to sell a generic version of Provigil. Each of these companies had challenged the only remaining patent covering Provigil, one relating to the size of particles used in the product. The complaint charges that Cephalon was able to induce each of the generic companies to abandon its patent challenge and agree to refrain from selling a generic version of Provigil until 2012 by agreeing to pay the companies a total amount in excess of $200 million. In so doing, Cephalon achieved a result that assertion of its patent rights alone could not.
What’s somewhat surprising about the FTC’s case is that it is coming now, as opposed to earlier. There have been private class actions against Cephalon for this alleged scheme for several years. PAL member AFSCME District Council 37 Health & Security Plan is a plaintiff in the main class action concerning this. A consolidated class action complaint was filed in that case, In re Modafinil Antitrust Litigation, in October 2006, over 16 months ago. To read more about that class action, go here. If you are a patient who has taken Provigil and wants to be kept updated about the class action, fill out this form and note that you are interested in the Provigil case.
Here’s the FTC’s complaint.
Here’s the class action complaint.