A Delaware federal judge on Friday tapped three firms — Grant & Eisenhofer PA, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Shepherd Finkelman Miller & Shah LLP — to lead the proposed end-payor class accusing AstraZeneca of paying off generic-drug makers to protect its brand antipsychotic drug Seroquel XR.
U.S. District Judge Colm F. Connolly named the three firms as interim co-lead counsel for the proposed end-payor class, which alleges that AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP struck deals with Handa Pharmaceuticals LLC, Par Pharmaceutical Inc. and Accord Pharmaceuticals Inc., inducing the generic-drug makers to hold off on launching their versions of Seroquel XR, AstraZeneca's prescription drug treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, for five years.
In exchange, the class alleges that AstraZeneca committed to stall the launch of its own generic for six months after Handa, Par and Accord rolled out their products in late 2016.
In his order Friday, Judge Connolly said the interim co-lead counsel will be responsible for convening meetings between attorneys, briefing and arguing motions, conducting discovery proceedings, retaining experts, designating which attorneys will appear at hearings, determining the timing and substance of any settlement negotiations, approving all financial expenditures in furtherance of the litigation and overseeing all other matters concerning the prosecution or resolution of the cases.
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The consolidated proposed class actions were transferred from the Southern District of New York to Delaware after AstraZeneca, Handa and Par argued last November that only three of the eight named end-payor plaintiffs, mostly employee benefits plans, are based in New York, and none can peg the case to the state beyond generally stating that the defendants have done business there.
In arguing that the cases really belong in Delaware, the drugmakers argued New York has general jurisdiction over only Par, which purchased the rights to Handa's generic drug application after that company settled a patent infringement case with AstraZeneca. The remaining companies, they said, are based elsewhere and their registration in Delaware makes that state the proper forum.
Had the transfer not been granted, the drug companies had asked that the August 2019 suit filed by direct purchaser plaintiff J.M. Smith Corp. be tossed, saying the distributor waited years too long to file suit and can't even show that generic Seroquel XR would have hit the market earlier if not for the alleged reverse payment staving off competition to the drug.
The proposed end-payor class is represented by Robert G. Eisler of Grant & Eisenhofer PA, Sharon K. Robertson of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Jayne A. Goldstein of Shepherd Finkelman Miller & Shah LPP.
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