Drug industry giant Pfizer is now facing regulatory action from the Australian government. The government’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has said that Pfizer has illegally marketed the cholesterol drug Lipitor to Australian pharmacies, in direct violation of antitrust law. The competition regulator claims that Pfizer offered various pharmacies illegal incentives for stocking Lipitor products, such as Lipitor’s generic variant, atorvastatin. Those incentives included discounts and rebates for stocking as much as a year’s worth of the cholesterol drug.
Lipitor has been very successful in the Australian market, and before the patent expired in May, the drug was making Pfizer over $626 million a year in sales. The ACCC claims that Pfizer started offering the illegal incentives ahead of their patent’s expiration so that stores would continue to keep large quantities of the drug in stock. Pfizer has vowed to fight any legal proceedings and the company claims that there was no wrongdoing in regards to their marketing practices. There is currently a preliminary legal hearing scheduled for March 18th in Australia’s Federal Court. The ACCC has stated that they intend to seek legal penalties, declarations, and court costs.
The government agency also released a statement. Pfizer engaged in this conduct for the purpose of deterring or preventing competitors in the market for atorvastatin from engaging in competitive conduct, as well as for the purpose of substantially lessening competition."