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Bristol-Myers Agrees to Halt Patent Tactics

March 08, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the world's fifth-largest pharmaceutical company, agreed to settle antitrust charges that it had misused patent laws to block cheaper generic drugs from reaching the market, the Federal Trade Commission said Friday.

The settlement would limit the firm's ability to delay U.S. approval of generic medications. For a decade, the FTC said, Bristol-Myers filed "baseless" patent-infringement suits to prevent competition to the cancer drugs Taxol and Platinol and the anxiety drug BuSpar, protecting $2 billion in annual sales.

Bristol-Myers shares, which have dropped 53% in the last year, rose 27 cents to $22.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The FTC said that once a generic manufacturer had applied for Food and Drug Administration approval of a low-cost alternative to a Bristol-Myers medication, the company listed new patents to delay agency action. Bristol-Myers listed patents it "could not reasonably believe" met legal requirements to delay FDA approval.

The company "engaged in many, many practices that were dubious," FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said.

Under the settlement with the FTC, Bristol-Myers would be entitled to only a single 30-month delay if its patents were listed before a generic drug firm files an FDA application. The proposed FTC order expires in 10 years.

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