The Supreme Court will take up “pay for delay” — the multibillion-dollar dispute over whether brand-name drug makers should be able to pay generic drug companies for agreeing to delay putting cheaper versions on the market.
The justices agreed Friday to hear the case of Federal Trade Commission v. Watson Pharmaceuticals and two other cases to resolve conflicting rulings in lower courts. Both the pharmaceutical industry and the FTC requested a Supreme Court review to resolve a long-running battle antitrust regulators have labeled “pay-for-delay” settlements.
“This is the health care reform case of 2013,” said David Balto, a former FTC policy director who helped file the first lawsuit against pay-for-delay deals back in the 1990s. “There’s no other case that can have as much impact on reducing health care costs.”
The FTC has estimated the deals cost consumers $3.5 billion annually by delaying access to cheaper generics, an estimate disputed by pharmaceutical companies. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that legislation introduced to restrict the deals would save the government more than $2.5 billion over 10 years in federal health care spending.