Retailers claim Pfizer kept generic drug off the market

Walgreens, others say pharmaceutical company violated U.S. antitrust law

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. was accused by Walgreen Co. and several other prescription drug retailers of violating U.S. antitrust law. The retailers claim Pfizer’s Wyeth unit and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd illegally kept a generic version of popular antidepressant Effexor XR off the market.

Walgreens, Safeway Inc., Kroger Co., Supervalu Inc., HEB Grocery Co. and American Sales Co. filed the complaint on Nov. 30, accusing Pfizer of engaging in “an overarching anticompetitive scheme to prevent and delay the approval and marketing of generic versions of Effexor RX,” which caused them to overpay.

The retailers say Wyeth kept generic equivalents off the shelves from June 2008, when the original Effexor compound patent lapsed, through at least June 2010.

According to the complaint, the pharmaceutical company obtained fraudulent patents, fabricated litigation and entered into a price-fixing agreement with Teva to delay the entrance of cheaper generic equivalents.

However, Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder said in an emailed statement to Reuters, “Pfizer categorically denies the claims asserted in the plaintiff’s complaints. Wyeth obtained its patents protecting Effexor XR lawfully, and the company intends to defend itself vigorously against these claims.”

The complaint was made public Thursday by the U.S. District Court of Trenton, N.J.

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