September 16, 2014 / 1:30 AM / 5 years ago

NY attorney general sues Actavis and Forest Labs over Alzheimer's drug

Sept 15 (Reuters) - The attorney general of New York filed a lawsuit against Actavis Plc and its subsidiary to stop the companies from discontinuing its Alzheimer’s drug, alleging that they were trying to maintain a monopoly position illegally.

Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, alleges that Actavis and its subsidiary Forest Laboratories violated anti-trust and state laws.

“Unfortunately, schemes to block competition, without considering the consequences to patients, are a growing trend in the health care industry. By standing up to Actavis, we’re sending a clear message to all pharmaceutical companies: Prioritizing profits over patients’ rights will not be tolerated,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Actavis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February, Forest Labs announced plans to withdraw its Alzheimer’s drug Namenda from the market, to focus on its new drug, Namenda XR, which is taken once instead of twice daily.

Namenda, which is protected by a patent set to expire soon, would stand to lose exclusivity and face competition from generic drug makers that could manufacture the drug starting July 2015, according to the complaint.

The move, also called a “forced switch,” asks doctors to transition patients to Namenda XR, which has additional patent protection and is unlikely to go generic for years.

“Because Namenda XR is protected by patents for many years longer than the original Namenda IR, defendants’ goal is to use the ‘forced switch’ to reap several more years of monopoly profits than they would have earned otherwise,” the complaint said.

Actavis completed the acquisition of Forest Labs for about $28 billion in July.

In the court filing on Monday, Schneiderman seeks an injunction to prevent the companies from discontinuing Namenda and also demands civil penalties and damages.

The case is The 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 Davika Krishna Kumar in Bangalore; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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