January 19, 2016 / 5:15 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear FTC, Boehringer document fight

WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined Boehringer Ingelheim’s request that the court hear a dispute between the German drug company and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over documents subpoenaed as part of a federal probe into what the agency has called a ‘pay for delay’ agreement.

The FTC has been investigating Boehringer because of a 2008 deal the company made with Barr Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, to settle patent litigation.

The FTC got involved when it learned that Barr pledged to delay sales of generic versions of Boehringer’s clot-preventing drug Aggrenox and Mirapex, used to treat Parkinson’s disease and restless leg syndrome, a move which delayed the introduction of cheaper rivals to the name-brand drugs. Boehringer said it would pay Barr to help promote Aggrenox.

The FTC opened an investigation of the deal, but ran into a roadblock when Boehringer refused to turn over documents, saying that they related to legal advice given regarding the patent settlements.

The FTC sued for the documents in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, but lost in 2012.

It then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a February 2015 opinion, the appeals court agreed with the lower court on several points but said that the company should be required to turn over financial analyses and spreadsheets on the grounds that they were not covered by attorney-client privilege. It sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration.

The American Bar Association had urged the Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that the appeals court decision “weakens protection of work protect when ‘government’ asks questions,” a point of broader legal interest.

The FTC declined comment and Boehringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court announced its decision without comment.

The case in the Supreme Court is Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc v. Federal Trade Commission. It is case No. 15-560. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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