WASHINGTON, April 28 (Reuters) - A Federal Trade Commission lawsuit accusing Cephalon Inc CEPH.O of trying to keep generic versions of its Provigil sleep disorder drug off the market will transfer to a court in Pennsylvania, a federal judge in Washington ruled on Monday.
The ruling was a setback for the FTC, which had sought to keep its lawsuit in the federal court in Washington, D.C.
Cephalon had asked to move the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where several class action lawsuits related to the same issue are pending against the company.
"The most compelling point in Cephalon's favor is the risk of inconsistent judgments that would arise if this case is not transferred," U.S. Judge John Bates wrote in his ruling.
"Although there are some differences between the private parties' claims against Cephalon and the government's case -- namely that the private litigants must demonstrate antitrust injury and prove damages -- at the core the two matters involve identical issues of fact and law," he wrote.
In February, the FTC sued Cephalon and accused it of reaching settlements with four generic drugmakers in which the companies agreed to delay making a copycat version of Provigil until 2012 in return for lucrative side agreements with Cephalon. The settlements were made with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd TEVA.O, Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc BRL.N, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd RANB.BO and Mylan Inc MYL.N.
The FTC has fought similar settlements with generic drug makers for years, arguing they violate antitrust law and keep drug prices high.
Provigil, used to treat excessive sleepiness, is Cephalon's biggest product with sales of $852 million last year. The company has said it believes the settlements with the four generic drugmakers were legal. (Reporting by Julie Vorman; Editing by Braden Reddall)