The Federal Trade Commission in the USA has accused Barr Laboratories and Warner Chilcott of conspiring to block sales of a generic version of the latter’s oral contraceptive product Ovcon 35 (norethindrone/ethinylestradiol).

In a lawsuit, the FTC alleges that Warner-Chilcott entered into an agreement with Barr to prevent access to a lower-cost version of Ovcon 35 for five years. Barr filed for approval to sell a generic version of the contraceptive in 2001, but cut a $20 million deal with Warner-Chilcott that ensured it never brought the product to market, according to the FTC. Ovcon is one of Warner Chilcott’s top products.

“The agreement between Warner Chilcott and Barr is a naked agreement not to compete and to share the resulting profits between a branded drug seller and its only prospective generic competitor,” said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras in a statement.

At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have joined the suit, according to the agency.