Plaintiffs Allege Pharma Giants Forced Higher Prices for Vascepa

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association Family Protection Plan Local 854 and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association for Retired Fire Officers Family Protection Plan have filed suit against key players in the pharmaceutical industry over allegations that they engaged in anticompetitive conduct, which forced consumers (including the plaintiffs) to “pay anticompetitive prices,” for the product involved.

Amarin Pharmaceuticals produces a prescription medication known as Vascepa, which is well-known to treat hyperglyceridemia in adults, the complaint explained. The plaintiffs alleged that in 2016, four pharmaceutical companies began orchestrating to produce generic versions of Vascepa, but they were stopped when Amarin sued each company due to their belief that the “asserted patent claims were either invalid or not infringed by their respective generic version of Vascepa.” While Amarin eventually reached settlement with two of the companies when they agreed to forego their efforts entirely, the other companies, Hikma and DRL, won the suit in trial when a judge ruled that “Amarin’s patents were invalid due to obviousness.”

Upon winning the suit, each company subsequently underwent preparations to produce the generic Vascepa. In doing so, they found that “Amarin had foreclosed all the suppliers of icosapent ethyl who have sufficient capacity to support a commercial launch in a timely manner.” Icosaepent ethyl (IPE) is one of the main components of Vascepa. The complaint said Amarin had signed exclusive agreements with the other defendants – Nisshin, BASF, Chemport, and Novasep that foreclosed Hikma and DRL from entering the Vascepa market.

Not only had Amarin made moves to “lock up the world’s supply of IPE,” but the plaintiffs also claimed they had procured the additional supply they would need for anticipated future sales. The allegedly anticompetitive conduct by the defendants allowed them to “prevent DRL’s generic Vascepa launch and limit Hikma’s launch.” The plaintiffs argued that Amarin had no legitimate procompetitive basis for “entering into exclusive supply agreements” with the other defendants.

The plaintiffs contend that since they are providers of health and welfare benefits, Amarin’s anticompetitive actions have caused them to pay unfair pricing for Vascepa. Ultimately, the plaintiffs argued that Amarin’s conspiracy with Nisshin, BASF, Chemport, and Novasep was “for the explicit purpose of preventing generic competition,” and excluding competitors like DRL and Hikma from the market.

The plaintiffs are seeking class action certification, treble damages, equitable relief, and other damages as well as for the court to “permanently enjoin defendants both from continuing the unlawful conduct alleged here, and from engaging in similar or related conduct in the future.”The plaintiffs are represented by Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody, & Agnello.