DENVER – Attorney General John Suthers today announced the settlement of a civil law enforcement action against the makers of the oral contraceptive Ovcon. The lawsuit, initiated by Colorado and joined by thirty-three other states and the District of Columbia, charged Warner Chilcott and Barr Pharmaceuticals with antitrust violations that prevented generic versions of Ovcon, a prescription oral contraceptive, from reaching the marketplace. As part of the settlement, Warner Chilcott will pay $5.5 million to Colorado and other litigating states.
“Competition has been restored to a marketplace in which it had been suppressed,” said Attorney General Suthers. “The anticompetitive conditions have been eliminated, and generic versions of this drug are now available for consumers.”
The civil complaint was filed in 2005 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit 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, and Warner Chilcott became the exclusive U.S. distributor of Ovcon in early 2000.
During 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.
Because this lawsuit was filed as a law enforcement action, the states sought civil penalties and equitable relief. The relief obtained through the settlement will help ensure that these companies will not engage in similar conduct in the future. The lawsuit against Barr will continue moving forward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.