Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. yesterday settled federal charges that it blocked the sale of cheaper generic versions of three of its drugs, allegedly costing cancer patients and others hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Federal Trade Commission said the company tried to limit competition for two of its anticancer drugs -- Taxol and Platinol -- and the anti-anxiety drug BuSpar. The company's actions protected nearly $2 billion in annual sales, according to the FTC.
"Through Bristol's decade-long pattern of alleged anti-competitive acts, Bristol avoided competition by abusing federal regulations," said Joe Simons, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition.
He said the company deceived the Patent and Trademark Office to obtain patent protection and paid a rival company more than $70 million to not bring generic drugs to market.
"Cancer patients and other consumers . . . -- being denied access to lower-cost alternatives -- were forced to overpay by hundreds of millions of dollars for important and often lifesaving medications," the FTC said in its announcement of the settlement.
Simons said the settlement would prevent Bristol from engaging in unlawful behavior that keeps competitive generic products off the market.
New York-based Bristol said in a statement that it agreed to the settlement to "to achieve a resolution of these matters which will allow it to continue its focus on discovering and developing quality medicines."
The company said the decision would not "adversely impact the company's financial position."
Bristol announced in January a $535 million settlement with 29 states and Puerto Rico to end lawsuits involving its efforts to block generic version of BuSpar. The settlement was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in New York City.
Richard L. Schwartz, an assistant attorney general for New York State, said states will receive between $93 million and $100 million to reimburse consumers and state-run health programs, such as Medicaid.
The remainder of the settlement money -- more than $400 million -- will go to others who purchased the drugs, such as insurance companies, retail pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers.
A $135 million settlement for Taxol-related claims by the states, also announced in January, has not yet been filed in court.
Taxol is used to treat ovarian, breast and lung cancers and cancer related to AIDS. Platinol and Platinol-AQ are different versions of the same brand-name drug used for the treatment of various cancers. BuSpar is used to manage anxiety disorders.
Bristol-Myers shares yesterday rose 27 cents, to $22.80.