U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested they will open drugmakers to suits over so-called pay-for-delay agreements, hinting at a ruling that would rewrite the rules governing the release of generic medicines.
Hearing arguments Monday in Washington, the justices voiced skepticism about the accords, which the Federal Trade Commission says cost buyers as much as $3.5 billion a year. The antitrust agency says brand-name drug companies are paying generic rivals to forestall low-priced versions of popular treatments.
The accords benefit the companies "to the detriment of consumers," Justice Elena Kagan said.
The FTC says 40 more pay-for-delay accords were struck in fiscal 2012 alone. Bayer AG, Merck & Co., and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. units already have faced lawsuits. Companies say the accords are legitimate patent settlements.