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Appeal by Australia’s watchdog against Pfizer ruling dismissed Posted 16/11/2018

Australia’s High Court has rejected the nation’s competition watchdog’s efforts to revive an antitrust case accusing Pfizer of abusing its market power to maintain control of the Australian generics market for its cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (atorvastatin).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleged misuse of market power and exclusive dealing in relation to Pfizer’s supply of its cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor to pharmacies in the lead up to the expiry of its exclusive patent. These actions were carried out in order to limit competition for Lipitor.

According to the ACCC, in early 2012, Pfizer offered significant discounts and the release of rebates accrued on previous sales of Lipitor to pharmacies. Pfizer’s offer was conditional upon pharmacies acquiring a minimum volume of Pfizer’s generic atorvastatin and agreeing to restrict their resupply of competing generic atorvastatin products.

The ACCC instituted proceedings against Pfizer in February 2014 [1]. The commission then sought leave to appeal against a judgment by the Full Federal Court in May 2018 that found that Pfizer took advantage of its substantial market power; but did not accept the ACCC’s argument that Pfizer had acted to lessen or deter competition.

However, on 19 October 2018 the ACCC announced that the High Court had dismissed the ACCC’s application for special leave to appeal the Full Federal Court decision in its case against Pfizer Australia.

Prior to the loss of its patent protection in May 2012, Lipitor was prescribed to over one million Australians and had annual sales of more than AU$700 million in Australia.

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1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Anticompetitive practices come under scrutiny in Australia [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2018 Nov 17]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Pharma-News/Anticompetitive-practices-come-under-scrutiny-in-Australia

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Source: ACCC

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