Sweeping Big Pharma Discovery Order Doused With Ice at High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) — In sweeping antitrust litigation over pharmaceutical companies accused of fixing generic drug prices, the Supreme Court agreed Friday to hit pause on discovery.

Justice Samuel Alito’s signature appears on the brief order, which stays a ruling that instructed 35 drug companies to broadly search their records, potentially disclosing documents not tied to the allegations.

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

The discovery is part of a complex litigation pitting the drug companies against 54 states, territories and Washington, D.C., as well as private citizens and companies.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe has stood at the helm of the litigation in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District since it was consolidated there four years ago.

She issued the discovery ruling as part of a broader case management order in October, giving the drug companies until March 9 to comply.

The companies — a group whose ranks include Actavis, Mylan and Teva — turned to the Supreme Court after the Third Circuit denied relief in December and declined to hear the case en banc.

Dechert, Hogan Lovells, and Arnold Porter are just a few of the big firms that signed onto to the Feb. 11 stay application led by Wilson Sonsini, which labels the discovery order overly broad.

In their opposition brief, meanwhile, those pressing the claims said the companies lost their right to withhold documents based on relevance when they abused a previous court order that allowed them to “claw back” documents within 30 days.

Steffen Johnson with Wilson Sonsini did not immediately return a request for comment on the order.

Connecticut Attorney General’s Office is leading the litigation for the states at the Supreme Court.

Elizabeth Benton, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Attorney’s General’s Office emphasized that the stay does not have bearing on the case’s merits.

“In conjunction with our states and territories, we look forward to presenting our case to the court,” Benton added.

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