Attorney General Suthers Announces Antitrust Lawsuit Against Manufacturers Of Oral Contraceptive Ovcon®

DENVER – Attorney General John Suthers announced today the filing of a civil law enforcement action against drug companies Warner Chilcott Corporation and Barr Pharmaceuticals.  The lawsuit, joined by twenty-one other states, including the District of Columbia, charges both companies with antitrust violations that have prevented generic versions of Ovcon, a prescription oral contraceptive, from reaching the marketplace. 

“As the cost of healthcare continues to increase, generic drugs help make those costs more manageable,” said Suthers.  “It is unacceptable that two companies allegedly conspired to keep generic drugs from reaching the public.  We have joined more than twenty states and the Federal Trade Commission to stop these anticompetitive agreements.”

The civil complaint was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and was filed in conjunction with a similar lawsuit filed today by the Federal Trade Commission.

The lawsuit alleges that Warner Chilcott paid Barr $20 million to keep Barr from marketing a generic version of Ovcon.  According to the lawsuit, Ovcon has been sold in the United States since 1976 as an oral contraceptive.  Warner Chilcott became the exclusive U.S. distributor of Ovcon in early 2000.  In early 2003, Barr publicly announced that it planned to have a generic version of Ovcon on the market by the end of that year.  The lawsuit alleges that Warner Chilcott paid Barr $1 million in September 2003 for an option agreement designed to prevent Barr’s generic product from coming to market.  Under the terms of the alleged agreement, once Barr received FDA approval to market generic Ovcon, Warner Chilcott had 90 days to pay Barr $19 million, after which Barr would refuse to bring the cheaper generic version to the market.

According to the lawsuit, Warner Chilcott exercised its option with Barr and remains the only company in the United States that markets Ovcon. 

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