Twenty states filed a federal lawsuit against six generic drug manufacturers, alleging that they entered into long-running and well coordinated illegal conspiracies in order to unreasonably restrain trade, artificially inflate and manipulate prices and reduce competition in the United States for two drugs: doxycycline hyclate delayed release, an antibiotic, and glyburide, an oral diabetes medication. The lawsuit was filed under seal to avoid compromising a continuing investigation. In the complaint, the states allege that the misconduct was conceived and carried out by senior drug company executives and their marketing and sales executives. The complaint further alleges that the defendants routinely coordinated their schemes through direct interaction with their competitors at industry trade shows, customer conferences and other events, as well as through direct email, phone and text message communications. The states further allege that the drug companies knew that their conduct was illegal and made efforts to avoid communicating with each other in writing or, in some instances, to delete written communications after becoming aware of the investigation. The states allege the anticompetitive conduct, including price-fixing and price maintenance, market allocation and other anticompetitive acts, caused significant, harmful and continuing effects in the country’s healthcare system. The states sought an injunction to prevent the companies from engaging in illegal, anticompetitive behavior and also sought equitable relief, including disgorgement. An additional 20 states joined the complaint in March 2017.
Plaintiff states and FTC filed suit challenging the merger of Ahold and Delhaize, supermarket chains operating in the United States as Stop & Shop and Hannafords. According to the complaint, supermarkets operated by Ahold and Delhaize compete closely for shoppers based on price, format, service, product offerings, promotional activity, and location. Without a remedy, the merger would eliminate direct supermarket competition to the detriment of consumers in these local markets. As a result, the merger would increase the likelihood that the combined company could unilaterally exercise market power, and that the remaining competitors could coordinate their behavior to raise prices. the parties agreed to divest 76 supermarkets in the plaintiff states. The settlement also required prior notification of future supermarket purchases and $300,000 in attorneys fees and costs.
U.S. DOJ and plaintiff states sued to block the merger of two of the country’s largest health insurers. According to the complaint, alleges that their merger would substantially reduce Medicare Advantage competition in more than 350 counties in 21 states, affecting more than 1.5 million Medicare Advantage customers in those counties. Before seeking to acquire Humana, Aetna had pursued aggressive expansion in Medicare Advantage. Aetna, the nation’s fourth-largest Medicare Advantage insurer by membership, has nearly doubled its Medicare Advantage footprint over the past four years. Humana is the nation’s second-largest Medicare Advantage insurer by membership. The lawsuit also alleges that Aetna’s purchase of Humana would substantially reduce competition to sell commercial health insurance to individuals and families on the public exchanges in 17 counties in Florida, Georgia and Missouri, affecting more than 700,000 people in those counties. The lawsuit alleges that by buying Humana, Aetna would eliminate one of its strongest and most capable competitors in these markets. The district court granted the injunction, rejecting the parties arguments that the Medicare Advantage and Medicare programs were competing products that constrained one another’s prices, and noting that Aetna’s exit from several markets, allegedly because of the Affordable Care Act, appeared to be designed to eliminate a problem with the merger, rather than being an unrelated business decision.
The US and plaintiff states sued to block the merger of two of the country’s largest health insurers. The complaint alleges that their merger would substantially reduce competition for millions of consumers who receive commercial health insurance coverage from national employers throughout the United States; from large-group employers in at least 35 metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and Indianapolis; and from public exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act in St. Louis and Denver. The complaint also alleges that the elimination of Cigna threatens competition among commercial insurers for the purchase of healthcare services from hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers. According to the complaint, the merger would eliminate substantial head-to-head competition in all these markets, and it would remove the independent competitive force of Cigna, which has been a leader in the industry’s transition to value-based care. the court granted the injunction. Anthem appealed to the DC Circuit, which affirmed the district court.
Commonwealth of Kentucky ex rel. Beshear v. Marathon Petroleum Co. LP, No. 3:15-cv-00354 (May 12, 2015)
State filed suit against Marathon, alleging Marathon engaged in anti-competitive practices that lead to higher gas prices for Kentucky consumers in violation of state and federal antitrust laws. State alleged that Marathon abused its monopoly position after its merger with Ashland Oil in 1998. The state alleged, among other actions, that Marathon requires some retailers, thought its supply agreements, to purchase 100 percent of their RFG from Marathon, with penalties if the retailers fail to do so. The agreements also prohibit unbranded retailers from challenging Marathon’s pricing. According to the complaint, Marathon further reduces competition by adding deed restrictions to some of the property parcels it sells that prohibit the purchaser of the property from selling gas or operating a convenience store. Some of the restrictions have an exception that will allow for development of a gas station if the station sells only Marathon gas. State sought injunctive relief, civil penalties of $2000 per violation, restitution to citizens and to the state and attorneys’ fees. Defendants moved to disqualify the outside counsel retained by the state on the grounds that the contingent fee arrangement was improper. The court denied Marathon’s motion to dismiss as to the federal antitrust, state antitrust and deceptive practices claims, but denied the state’s unjust enrichment claim because consumers only conferred an indirect benefit on Marathon by buying gasoline at allegedly inflated prices, not a direct benefit.
Following guilty pleas to criminal price-fixing by several LCD manufacturers, and a conviction after trial of another, Oregon filed suit against LCD manufacturers, alleging that top executives of several companies held numerous secret meetings from at least 1999 through at least 2006 for the purpose of exchanging information and setting prices on LCD panels. According to the complaint, companies such as Dell, Apple, and Hewlett Packard were among those targeted by the manufacturers’ price-fixing scheme. According to the lawsuit, the illegal overcharges were ultimately borne by state consumers and state government purchasers. The suit also alleges fraudulent concealment of the conspiracy. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, civil penalties and injunctive relief under the Sherman Act and state antitrust statutes. A number of states filed in the MDL, but Oregon filed originally in federal district court in Oregon, and was transferred, with its consent, to the MDL. Oregon reached individual settlements with many defendants, totaling $21 million (Hitachi Displays, $565,000; Chi Mai, $1,634,600; Epson, $105,000; LG Display, $6,975,000; Sharp, $1,950,000; Samsung, $4.5 million; AU Optronics, $4.25 million; Toshiba, $525,000; HannStar, $1 million)
United States and Michigan v. Hillsdale Community Health Center et al., No. 2:15-cv-12311 (E.D. Mich. June 25, 2015)
The United States and Michigan filed suit in federal court against four Michigan hospital systems, alleging that for years they unlawfully agreed to allocate territories for marketing. The complaint alleged Hillsdale, Allegiance, Branch and ProMedica’s Bixby and Herrick Hospitals, the only hospitals in their respective counties, each competed through marketing to attract patients, including advertising, direct mailings to patients, outreach to physicians and employers, conducting health fairs and offering free health screenings. The complaint alleges that Hillsdale curtailed this competition for years by entering into agreements with Allegiance, Branch and ProMedica to limit the marketing of competing healthcare services. Three of the systems, Hillsdale Community Health Center, Community Health Center of Branch County, Michigan, and ProMedica Health System Inc., agreed to settle the charges in 2015. The settlement prohibits Hillsdale, Branch and ProMedica from agreeing with other healthcare providers, including hospitals and physicians, to limit marketing or to divide any geographic market or territory, prohibits communications among the defendants about their marketing activities and requires the hospitals to implement compliance measures tailored to prevent the recurrence of these types of anticompetitive practices in the future. The parties paid $5,000 each to Michigan for costs and attorneys’ fees. W.A. Foote Memorial Hospital, doing business as Allegiance Health, settled in 2018. The Allegiance settlement expands on the terms of the previous settlements, specifically, the proposed settlement prevents Allegiance from engaging in improper communications with competing providers regarding their respective marketing activities and entering into any improper agreement to allocate customers or to limit marketing. It explicitly prevents Allegiance from continuing to carve out Hillsdale County from its marketing and business development activities. Allegiance must report any violations and must annually certify compliance with the terms of the final judgment. Allegiance must also submit to compliance inspections at the Department’s request. Allegiance must also pay $40,000 to the state and the US to reimburse costs.
State alleged that defendant, responding to requests from eye care professionals to limit competition from discounters, implemented a resale price maintenance policy, which fixed minimum retail prices for all retail sellers of Johnson & Johnson contact lenses. After objections from Costco, a large discount retailer, defendant revised its policy. Under Maryland law, although not federal law, an agreement establishing a minimum retail price is an unreasonable restraint of trade and per se illegal. The parties entered into an Assurance of Discontinuance under which Johnson & Johnson permanently discontinued the RPM agreements alleged and agreed to pay $50,000 in civil penalties.
People of the State of New York v. Actavis, PLC et al., No. 14-CV-7473 (RWS)(S.D.N.Y filed Dec. 10, 2014)
Plaintiff state sued pharmaceutical manufacturer Actavis plc and its New-York based subsidiary Forest Laboratories seeking an injunction to prevent them from withdrawing the Alzheimer’s drug Namenda from the market and switching patients to a once daily version, Namenda XR. Namenda’s patent will expire in July 2015 and the company thereafter faces competition from generic drug makers. According to the complaint, Actavis planned to force patients to switch unnecessarily to Namenda XR because it had a longer patent. Once patients switch to Namenda XR, it would be difficult for patients to switch drugs again once generics become available. Normally, state substitution laws allow pharmacists to dispense generics without being forced to obtain physician approval. According to the complaint, even though Namenda and Namenda XR have the same active ingredient, pharmacists will not be allowed to offer generic Namenda to patients taking Namenda XR; a doctor’s approval would be required to make that switch. This means that most Alzheimer’s patients and their families will remain on Namenda XR. The lawsuit alleges that, by forcing patients to switch to Namenda XR, Actavis is gaming the regulatory system that governs pharmaceuticals and violating antitrust laws designed to encourage competition and keep prices down for consumers. In December 2014, the district court enjoined Actavis from ceasing production of Namenda, and the injunction was affirmed by the Second Circuit in May 2015.
Plaintiff state alleged that Benco, a dental supply company, and its competitors worked together to thwart the entry of a lower cost, online source of dental supplies provided by the Texas Dental Association. The State alleged that Benco and others colluded to discourage distributors and manufacturers from working with the TDA and its business partner and agreed not to attend the TDA’s annual trade show in 2014. The State’s agreement with Benco requires Benco not to participate in such anticompetitive activities in the future and institutes an antitrust training program for the company. Benco has also agreed to pay $300,000 to reimburse the Attorney General for investigative costs and attorneys’ fees in lieu of any civil penalty.