Antitrusters Urged to Probe Zocor Price Cuts

Published Online: Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Calling Merck's deep postpatent expiration price cuts for Zocor "a predatory pricing scheme" against the generic drug industry, congressional leaders are pressing for a federal antitrust investigation into the latest pricing maneuvers by branded pharmaceutical manufacturers.

At issue: Merck's efforts to salvage some of the market share for its $4.4- billion cholesterol-lowering drug following the loss of patent exclusivity in July. Teva, which had been granted an exclusive 180-day period to market its generic Zocor in the United States, found its plans undermined by Merck's abrupt price reduction.

Under an arrangement with the UnitedHealth Group, Merck will make Zocor available to members of the plan at about $10 for a month's supply?a price that is well below the cost of Teva's generic. Although Merck characterized the price reduction as evidence of a competitive marketplace, others saw the maneuver as aimed at destroying generic competition.

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