Australia Regulator Takes Action Against Pfizer Australia Over Cholesterol Drug

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By Robb M. Stewart

MELBOURNE, Australia--Australia's antitrust regulator has launched court proceedings against the local arm of Pfizer Inc. ( PFE ) alleging it misused its market power in the sale of its popular cholesterol-lowering medicine.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in a statement Thursday said its action in the federal court relates to offers made to pharmacies in early 2012 for the supply of Lipitor and Pfizer's generic variant, atorvastatin.

Lipitor was for a number of years the highest selling prescription medicine under Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and before Pfizer lost patent protection on the drug in May 2012 it was prescribed to more than one million Australians and had sales of more than 700 million Australian dollars (US$626 million), the regulator said.

The ACCC said its action claimed that Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd. offered significant discounts and rebates that had applied to supplies of its Lipitor drug on the condition that pharmacies bought minimum volumes of up to 12 months supply of the generic atorvastatin. The offers were first made ahead of the loss of patent protection, when other suppliers were prevented from making competing offers to supply their generic versions to pharmacies, it said.

The regulator said it was seeking penalties, declarations and costs. A directions hearing has been set for March 18 in Sydney.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer Australia didn't have an immediate response to the ACCC's action or allegations.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires


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