Novartis to pay $245 mln to end antitrust cases over Exforge drug generics

Logo is seen at new factory of Novartis in Stein
The company's logo is seen at the new cell and gene therapy factory of Swiss drugmaker Novartis in Stein, Switzerland, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

NEW YORK, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Novartis AG (NOVN.S) said on Wednesday it will pay $245 million to end antitrust litigation accusing the Swiss drugmaker of trying to delay the launch in the United States of generic versions of its Exforge hypertension drug.

The settlements with so-called direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and retailers require approval by a federal judge in Manhattan, and will resolve all outstanding claims against the company over the matter, Novartis said.

CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Kroger Co (KR.N), Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) are among the plaintiffs in the civil litigation, which began in 2018.

The class-action litigation stemmed from a 2011 licensing agreement between Novartis and Endo International Plc's (ENDPQ.PK) Par Pharmaceutical unit.

Novartis and Par were accused of entering an illegal "reverse payment" agreement to delay launches of less expensive, generic versions of Exforge, which treats hypertension to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of strokes.

Plaintiffs said Par agreed not to launch an Exforge generic for two years after the expiration of one of Novartis's patents, and Novartis agreed not to compete with Par by launching its own Exforge generic during the 180-day exclusivity period following Par's entry into the market.

Novartis's annual U.S. sales of brand-name Exforge exceeded $400 million before generic versions were sold, court papers show.

The case is In re Novartis and Par Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-04361.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Bradley Perrett

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.