RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - Pfizer fraudulently got its patent for its highly successful arthritis drug Celebrex reissued so it could wage a war of sham litigation to keep generic versions of drug from consumers, a class action claims.
Named plaintiff Allied Services Division Welfare Fund alleges that Pfizer undertook to scheme after a Federal Court ruled that its patent relating to the active ingredient in Celebrex, celecoxib, was invalid.
As a result of its alleged activities, "purchasers of prescription drugs are now paying, and will continue to pay, supra-competitive prices for Celebrex, imposing antitrust overcharges on purchasers of many hundreds of millions of dollars even though the only valid celecoxib patents have already expired," the complaint says.
The plaintiff claims Pfizer repeatedly submitted false information to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office in order to obtain continuous reissue patents. Patent exclusivity for celecoxib ended on May 30, 2014.
Pfizer has since attempted to preemptively prosecute other drug manufacturers who might produce generic versions of the drug, the complaint says.
"But Pfizer's goal was not to win this sham litigation," the plaintiffs continue. "It was simply to use the lawsuit to delay would-be generic makers' entry efforts, and to have a lawsuit pending to serve as a vehicle for later settlements that would buy Pfizer additional exclusivity beyond May 2014."
Allied Services says these efforts were successful. It points to Teva Pharmaceuticals as one party, who settled out of court under the accord that they would not produce their generic version of the drug until December 2014.
"Protecting our intellectual property is vital to our ability to develop new medicines that save or enhance patient lives," Senior Director of Pfizer Media Relations Christine Regan Lindenboom told Courthouse News. "Pfizer's good-faith efforts to procure and enforce its Celebrex patents were at all times proper and lawful, and the Company believes this case has no merit."
According to Pfizer, more than 33 million US consumers have taken Celebrex since its inception in 1999. Celebrex grossed over $2 billion in sales last year alone.
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