NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Actavis Plc has reached an agreement with New York’s attorney general to keep selling a top Alzheimer’s drug for 60 days so U.S. patients will not be forced to switch to a newer, more expensive form of the drug with additional patent protection.
The accord was announced in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday in response to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s antitrust case against the pharmaceutical firm.
The lawsuit, filed on Sept. 15, accuses the company and its New York-based subsidiary, Forest Laboratories, of scheming to reduce generic competition for its Alzheimer’s medication.
The plan was to withdraw the Alzheimer’s drug Namenda IR from the market in August to focus on its new but similar drug, Namenda XR, which is taken once instead of twice daily.
Namenda IR, which is protected by a patent soon to expire, faces competition from generic drug makers starting in July 2015, according to the complaint.
The move, also called a “forced switch,” asks doctors to transition patients to Namenda XR, which will not face generic competition for years.
Forest announced in February that it would discontinue the sale of Namenda IR effective August 15, according to the lawsuit. In mid-September, it said it planned to stop sale of the tablets in the fall of 2014.
“We’ve agreed to the status quo for the next 60 days,” attorney J. Mark Gidley, who represents Actavis, told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet at Wednesday’s hearing. “This is changing our business strategy.”
At the hearing, lawyers also argued over whether the complaint contained sensitive information that should remain under seal.
Reuters obtained an unredacted version of the complaint last week, but only a version containing blacked out sections is available online to the public.
The redacted information, which includes forecasts and statements from internal documents and meetings, could “needlessly alarm certain investors or shareholders,” attorney Jack Pase, who also represents Actavis, told the judge.
“There’s nothing competitively sensitive in those materials,” countered Eric Stock, chief of the New York Attorney General’s Antitrust Bureau.
The judge reserved his decision on the redactions.
Forest’s forecasts “indicated dramatically increased profits if it were able to switch large numbers of patients to Namenda XR,” according to one part of the lawsuit Actavis wants to remain sealed.
To date, more than 40 percent of existing patients have switched from Namenda IR to Namenda XR in anticipation of the discontinuance, the complaint said.
The case is People of the State of New York v. Actavis Plc and Forest Laboratories LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York 14-cv-7473.
Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Dan Grebler