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Pfizer, Ranbaxy sued by retailers for generic Lipitor delay

Pfizer, Ranbaxy sued by retailers for generic Lipitor delay

Drug company Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and India's Ranbaxy Laboratories have been sued by five U.S. retailers, accused of conspiring to delay sales of generic versions of its best-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor.

Pfizer’s accusers are Walgreen (NYSE:WAG), Kroger (NYSE:KR), Safeway (NYSE:SWY), SuperValu (NYSE:SVU), and privately-held HEB

Grocery. Pfizer denies the plaintiffs' claims and will defend itself vigorously, a spokesman said.

The retailers accused the drugs giant of running an "overarching anticompetitive scheme" to keep generic versions of Lipitor off the market until late November, 20 months after the original patent expired.

"Because of defendants' scheme to delay and suppress generic Lipitor competition, in whole or in part, plaintiffs have paid hundreds of millions of dollars more for atorvastatin calcium than they would have paid," according to the complaint, which seeks triple damages and other remedies.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey.

The suit resembles antitrust cases brought against Pfizer and Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (NYSE:TEVA) by the same plaintiffs, and by CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS) and Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD), over delays in generic versions of the antidepressant Effexor XR..

Pfizer and Teva have denied wrongdoing in those cases which were also filed in Trenton.

Lipitor sales in 2011 totaled $9.6 billion, accounting for about one-seventh of Pfizer's total revenues.

In the first quarter of 2012, however, Lipitor sales fell roughly 42 per cent to $1.4 billion from $2.39 billion a year earlier, a drop that Pfizer attributed almost entirely to the loss of U.S. exclusivity.

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