The competition and IP intersect
In a move which will be closely watched by the pharmaceutical industry, the ACCC has commenced proceedings against Pfizer alleging breaches of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act in relation to its blockbuster product Lipitor (Atorvastatin).
According to the ACCC’s press release, which can be found here: the ACCC alleges Pfizer misused its market power and engaged in exclusive dealing in the lead up to patent expiry. The ACCC alleges that Pfizer offered discounts (and payment of accrued rebates for purchases of Lipitor) conditional on pharmacies taking 12 months of stock of Pfizer’s generic atorvastatin products. This conduct is alleged to have been for the purpose of deterring or preventing competitors from supplying generic products into pharmacies after patent expiry.
The press release quotes Rod Sims as saying “This case …raises an important public interest issue regarding the conduct of a patent holder nearing the expiry of that patent and what constitutes permissible competitive conduct”.
The case may deal with the sometimes delicate balance between IP rights and anti-competitive conduct. It’s early days as the first directions hearing is scheduled for 18 March, but we’ll watch its progress with interest.