Pharmacy chain once again turns to courts to solve its agita over heartburn drugs

Walgreen is suing the maker of the Purple Pill, alleging the company paid off generic drug makers not to offer cheaper versions of it.

The suit against AstraZeneca, which has offices in Westborough and Waltham, was filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston.

It's Walgreen's second attempt to wrest money out of AstraZeneca for alleged anti-trust violations. In 2008, Walgreen lost a suit charging the drug maker with monopolistic hanky panky for allegedly trying to get the market to switch from its older Prilosec, the patent for which was running out, to the newer Nexium, which has similar effects.

To protect its over $3 billion in annual Nexium sales from the threat of generic competition, AstraZeneca entered into non-competition agreements with each of the Generic Defendants, agreeing to pay the Generic Defendants substantial sums in exchange for their agreement to delay marketing their less expensive generic versions of Nexium for as long as six years or more, i.e., until May 27, 2014. ... The Generic Defendants did, in fact, delay marketing their less-expensive versions of Nexium; but for the Agreements, generic versions of Nexium would have been marketed in the United States as early as April 14, 2008, when the 30-month stay of the FDA approval of Ranbaxy's generic Nexium product expired.

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