Retailers sue Pfizer, Charge Generic Lipitor Delay
Five large drug and grocery chains are suing Pfizer Inc. and a second drugmaker, alleging they conspired to delay sales of cheap generic versions of the blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor.
Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug ever, had peak sales of nearly $13 billion a year several years ago. Sales dropped sharply after it got U.S. generic competition on Nov. 30.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by Walgreen Co., the Kroger Co. and three other retailers in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J., claims generics should have been available nearly two years earlier, when Lipitor's original patent expired.
The suit accuses Pfizer of patent fraud as well as "illegal, anti-competitive conduct" with generic drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories of India to block other generic drugmakers from selling versions of Lipitor, called atorvastatin calcium, until recently.
The suit also accuses New York-based Pfizer of making deals with companies that manage prescription benefits, giving them big discounts on brand-name Lipitor in exchange for those companies limiting sales of generic versions. Generic pills generally bring pharmacies higher profit margins than brand-name medicines do.
Pfizer denies the lawsuit claims and said Friday that it "will defend itself vigorously." A spokesman for Ranbaxy said the company had not been served with the lawsuit and has a policy against commenting on pending litigation.