Attorney General Hardy Myers today sued Warner Chilcott Corporation and Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for entering into an agreement, which blocked generic competition for Warner Chilcott's oral contraceptive Ovcon®.
The lawsuit, filed with 21 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, and in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, alleges that Warner Chilcott paid Barr $20 million to keep it from marketing a generic version of Ovcon®. "The agreement hurts Oregon women and families because it prevents them from buying cheaper generic Ovcon®," Myers said.
Since 1976, Ovcon® has been sold in the United States as a safe and effective oral contraceptive. Beginning in 2000, Warner Chilcott became the exclusive U.S. distributor of Ovcon®. In September 2001, Barr filed with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) an application to allow it to bring a generic version of Ovcon® to market. In early 2003, Barr publicly announced that it planned to have the generic on the market by the end of that year. In response to this threat to its monopoly, in September 2003, Warner Chilcott paid Barr $1 million for an option agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement, once Barr received FDA approval to market generic Ovcon®, Warner Chilcott had 90 days to pay Barr $19 million. Once Warner Chilcott made this payment, Barr would be prevented from coming to market with generic Ovcon®.
The FDA gave Barr approval to market generic Ovcon® on April 23, 2004 and on May 6, 2004, Warner Chilcott exercised its option by paying Barr $19 million. As a result of the option agreement, as of today, Warner Chilcott remains the only company in the United States which markets Ovcon®.
According to Attorney General Myers, "Warner Chicott and Barr are engaging in a restraint of trade that hurts consumers, in violation of the antitrust laws of the United States and various other states, including Oregon. We are pleased to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission, which today also filed its own separate complaint, in order to vindicate the rights of consumers in Oregon and elsewhere."
Consumers wanting information on consumer protection issues may contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) and toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org