Mayo Clinic, LifePoint Health sue pharmas over 'pay for delay' deals keeping blood cancer drug prices high

The Mayo Clinic and LifePoint Health believe that collusion within the pharmaceutical industry forced their organizations to overpay for the multiple myeloma drug Revlimid and are petitioning the court to recover the funds.

Earlier this month, the health systems filed a 146-page lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Revlimid manufacturer Celgene and its parent company Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), as well as drugmakers Natco Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories.

The complaint alleges that Revlimid’s rights holders conspired with the latter group of drugmakers to limit and delay their production of a generic version of Revlimid—what the systems described as “pay for delay” settlement agreements.

In exchange for dropping its patent lawsuits against the other drug makers and ceding a portion of the market for the treatment, Celgene and BMS allegedly secured arrangements in which the other defendants chose not to launch their generics in certain dosage strengths. Some of these alleged agreements keep the other defendants from fully supplying the market with a generic until 2026, according to the lawsuit.

The result of these anticompetitive deals, the systems wrote, is that buyers are facing artificially inflated prices for a drug that saw its core patent expire in 2019 and generics eventually become available in 2022.

“Plaintiffs bring this action to recover damages for the overcharges they have already paid and to obtain equitable relief to stop the ongoing harm caused by Defendants’ anticompetitive conduct,” the systems wrote in the complaint.

The systems’ suit outlines the steadily rising price of Revlimid before and after the end of market exclusivity. They noted that the drug cost about $16,000 in late 2020 but roughly $24,600 in 2023 for a one-month supply, despite the availability of generics that should have reduced prices.

The suit also recaps Celgene and (as of its 2019 acquisition) BMS’ controversial actions over the years to extend their control of the market with patent litigation against several other drugmakers, including the settlement agreements with other listed defendants that are described in the complaint as anti-competitive.

“While we will not comment on the specifics of an ongoing litigation, we believe the allegations are without merit,” a BMS spokesperson told Fierce Healthcare in an email statement. “The company will address the lawsuit’s allegations at the appropriate time.”

Mayo and LifePoint’s arguments echo those brought against Celgene and BMS late last year in a class action antitrust suit brought by union pension funds. Prior to that, Celgene agreed to, and then backed out from, a $55 million settlement with patients and payers over similar allegations.

 Revlimid still plays a key role in BMS’ fortunes. In its most recent earnings call this summer, the drugmaker took a hit when it was forced to slash its 2023 sales projection for the blood cancer drug from $6.5 billion to $5.5 billion.