The US Federal Trade Commission is suing AbbVie and Teva, among others, alleging that the companies illegally blocked access to generic versions of the testosterone replacement therapy AndroGel.

A lawsuit has been filed in Pennsylvania claiming that AbbVie and partner Besins Healthcare filed “baseless patent infringement lawsuits against potential generic competitors to delay the introduction of lower-priced versions of AndroGel. The FTC also alleges that while the suits were pending, AbbVie entered into a ‘pay-for-delay’ settlement with Teva.

The FTC alleges that AbbVie paid Teva, its “potential rival”, with a deal to produce an authorised generic version of its cholesterol medication TriCor (fenofibrate). The antitrust agency is seeking a court judgment declaring that the defendants’ conduct violates the FTC Act, ordering the companies to “disgorge their ill-gotten gains, and permanently barring them from engaging in similar anticompetitive behaviour in the future”.  

FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said the “anticompetitive conduct” by AbbVie, Besins and Teva has forced consumers to “overpay hundreds of millions” for AndroGel. A US Supreme Court ruling last year gave the agency the right to challenge pay-for-delay deals and the FTC voted 3-2 to file the complaint.

AbbVie says the patent infringement lawsuits it took out were appropriate and that its settlement agreements were legal.