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Bristol-Myers to Settle Antitrust Lawsuits

January 08, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Tuesday that it would pay about $670 million to settle allegations that it unlawfully delayed competition for its BuSpar anti-anxiety medication and Taxol cancer therapy.

The antitrust lawsuits accused the New York-based company of using patent law loopholes to block competition for BuSpar and Taxol. Drug purchasers, competitors and state attorneys general brought the lawsuits.

Chief Executive Peter Dolan's decision to settle removes one of the concerns keeping away some investors and potential acquirers, shareholders said. Bristol-Myers also faces U.S. accounting probes and plans to restate $2 billion in revenue dating to 2000 after using discounts to inflate sales.

"This settlement does provide a little more clarity and removes some uncertainty," said Jake Dollarhide, chief operating officer at Frederic E. Russell Investment Management Co., which he said owns more than 90,000 shares of Bristol-Myers. "Bristol-Myers shareholders have been overwhelmed with uncertainty and bad news, so they're in a wait-and-see mode."

Bristol-Myers shares fell 17 cents to $25.10 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The stock traded above $75 in 1999. In the last 12 months, Bristol-Myers shares have dropped 50%.

Bristol-Myers said in a statement that its actions were lawful and that it opted to settle to end the risk of litigation.

The settlement is the biggest for a drug maker accused of misusing patents for antitrust purposes, said Rebecca Dick, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer now with Swid- ler Berlin Shereff Friedman in Washington.

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