* Abbott, Fournier were accused of blocking generic TriCor
* Teva looking to launch generic TriCor (Adds Abbott comment, shares)
By Ransdell Pierson
NEW YORK, Jan 7 (Reuters) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) and French drugmaker Fournier have agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a multistate lawsuit that accused them of conspiring to block generic forms of their TriCor treatment for triglycerides.
The drugmakers will pay the money to New York, 22 other states and the District of Columbia, Cuomo said in a news release on Thursday. About $4.5 million goes to New York.
The lawsuit, filed in Delaware federal court in March 2008, alleged Abbott and Fournier schemed to block generics when competitors started to develop versions of TriCor, used to treat a type of blood fat that increases the risk of heart disease.
Cuomo said Abbott and Fournier made minor changes to TriCor that provided no clinical benefit, but were meant to prevent pharmacists from dispensing less-expensive generic versions of TriCor.
The states alleged the drugmakers also thwarted generic competition by filing baseless patent-infringement suits against generic drugmakers, thereby securing a monopoly for blockbuster TriCor.
“We agreed to settle the lawsuits to avoid the uncertainty of ongoing litigation,” an Abbott spokesman said. He said Abbott continues to believe its actions were lawful and that new formulations of TriCor have benefited patients.
Fournier is owned by plastics and chemicals producer Solvay (SOLB.BR), Abbott’s Belgian development partner. Abbott in September said it would buy Solvay’s pharmaceuticals unit for $6.6 billion.
The deal gives Abbott full control of TriCor and the newer Trilipix drug to control triglycerides.
TriCor and Trilipix garnered $919 million in sales for the first nine months of 2009.
The settlement involves the 145 milligram dose of TriCor, which makes up the majority of TriCor sales.
The licensing agreement paves the way for Teva to launch a U.S. generic version no sooner than March 28, 2011. Under certain unspecified circumstances, Teva might not receive such rights until July 1, 2012.
Abbott shares rose 0.7 percent to $54.71 in late-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Richard Chang)