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The Cipro payoff. (Names in the News).

AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN BAYER, Barr Laboratories, and two other generic drug companies is blocking access to adequate supplies and cheaper, generic versions of Cipro, one of the leading antibiotics used to treat anthrax, according to the Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) project, a coalition of over 60 organizations in 29 states, which has sued to undo the agreement.

The lawsuit asks the court to put aside the agreement, opening the way for genetic forms of Cipro to enter the market.

The plaintiffs charge that Bayer Corporation has unlawfully paid three of its competitors - Barr Laboratories, Rugby, and Hoechst-Marion Roussel - a total of $200 million to date to abandon efforts to bring cheaper generic versions of Cipro to the market, manipulating the price and supply of a drug that has suddenly become a crucial weapon in the fight against bio-terrorism.

Because of these payments, the generic companies abandoned their argument that Bayer's patent was invalid and unenforceable.

"This is simply wrong on the face of it," says PAL spokesman Stephen Rosenfeld. "On the one hand you have people throughout the country worrying that public health officials may not have sufficient supplies of Cipro available. At the same time Bayer is paying Barr and two other companies millions of dollars to not produce the drug."

With the lawsuit, the consumer groups have joined an existing federal lawsuit filed last year in the Eastern District of New York to have Bayer's agreement with the three generic companies declared illegal. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Trager has ruled that the plaintiffs' antitrust claim is plausible and deserves to go to trial.

Bayer has marketed Cipro in the United States since October 1987.

In 1991, Barr applied to the Food and Drug Administration to bring ciprofloxacin to market, asserting that Bayer's patent on Cipro was invalid and unenforceable. In 1995 Barr received tentative FDA approval to manufacture and market genetic Cipro, pending the resolution of the patent litigation.

Beginning in 1997, however, Bayer paid Barr and the two other generic firms millions of dollars in exchange for their agreement to nor manufacture the generic drug.
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Title Annotation:Bayer Corp.
Author:Mokhiber, Russell
Publication:Multinational Monitor
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:352
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