June 12, 2007
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today announced the settlement of a civil law enforcement action against the makers of the popular oral contraceptive product Ovcon. The lawsuit, joined by thirty-three other states and the District of Columbia, charged Warner Chilcott and Barr Pharmaceuticals with antitrust violations that have prevented generic versions of Ovcon from reaching consumers. As part of the settlement, Warner Chilcott will pay a total of $5.5 million to the litigating states, including more than $150,000 to the state of Missouri.
“When competition is hampered, it results in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers,” Nixon said. “These two companies actively prevented that competition - to the detriment of Missouri’s consumers - and we are pleased they will be making some amends for that through this settlement.”
Nixon sued Warner Chilcott Corp. and Barr Pharmaceuticals in November 2005 alleging that Warner Chilcott paid Barr $20 million to keep Barr from marketing a generic version of Ovcon. Missouri’s lawsuit, joined by the other states, was filed in federal court; the Federal Trade Commission also filed its own lawsuit against the two companies.
Since 1976, Ovcon has been sold in the United States as a safe and effective oral contraceptive. Warner Chilcott became its exclusive distributor in 2000. Barr filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001 to allow it to bring a generic version of Ovcon to market.
In early 2003, Barr announced that it planned to have the generic on the market by the end of that year. In September 2003, Warner Chilcott paid Barr $1 million for the exclusive option to market all products produced once the FDA approved Barr’s application. Under the terms of that agreement, once Barr received FDA approval to market the generic version of Ovcon, Warner Chilcott had 90 days to trigger the option by paying Barr $19 million. Once Warner Chilcott made this payment, Barr would be prevented from bringing a generic version of Ovcon to market.
The FDA approved Barr’s marketing of generic Ovcon in April 2004. A month later, Warner Chilcott exercised its option by paying Barr $19 million.
Missouri’s payment of more than $150,000 will go towards future antitrust and consumer protection law enforcement and to reimburse its costs in bringing the case.
“It was clear that these companies entered into an agreement to restrain competition by keeping generic drugs off the market while also protecting their profits,” Nixon said. “My office is continuing to work with our co-plaintiffs and with the FTC in litigating our claims against Barr.”