(Washington, DC) Interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles announced today that he and attorney generals from 34 states have settled an antitrust lawsuit with the manufacturer of the popular birth-control pill Ovcon®. The multi-state suit alleged that Barr Pharmaceuticals and Warner Chilcott, another pharmaceutical company, colluded to keep a generic version of Ovcon from reaching the market in 2004.
“This settlement will help prevent drug companies from keeping prices artificially high in the future,” Nickles said. “This is a win for consumers in the District and across the country.”
Since 1976, Ovcon has been sold in the United States as a safe and effective oral contraceptive. Warner Chilcott became its exclusive distributor in 2000. Barr filed an application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001 to allow it to bring a generic version of Ovcon to market.
In early 2003, Barr announced that it planned to have the generic version on the market by the end of that year. In September 2003, Barr and Warner Chilcott entered into a letter of intent for an exclusive licensing agreement. In March 2004, Warner Chilcott paid Barr $1 million for the exclusive option to market Barr’s generic Ovcon products. Under the terms of that agreement, once Barr received FDA approval to market its generic version of Ovcon, Warner Chilcott had 90 days to trigger the option by paying Barr $19 million. Once Warner Chilcott made that payment, Barr would be prevented from bringing a generic version of Ovcon to market.
The FDA approved Barr’s generic Ovcon in April 2004. A month later, Warner Chilcott exercised its option by paying Barr $19 million. The exclusive license agreement was terminated during the course of the States’ litigation. The settlement includes injunctive terms preventing similar agreements in the future.
The case was litigated in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The District’s share of the settlement is $80,000, which will support future antitrust enforcement.