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The controversy over multimillion-dollar settlements paid by name-brand drug companies to generic drugmakers will be front and center on March 7, when Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) gavels in the Senate’s first antitrust oversight hearing of the current Congress. Testifying before Kohl and other members of the Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee will be Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras and Thomas Barnett, the Justice Department’s top antitrust official. The settlements in question, say critics, amount to a payoff by name-brand pharmaceutical companies to delay the introduction of cheaper, generic versions of their drugs. And Majoras and Barnett’s agencies haven’t seen eye to eye on the question. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on a settlement it had unsuccessfully sought to block, in which Schering-Plough had settled patent-infringement suits with generic drugmakers by paying $75 million, while the generic companies agreed to delay the introduction of a competing blood-pressure drug. But the Court decided not to hear the case after the Justice Department filed a brief saying its sister agency’s appeal was “not a good vehicle” for addressing the controversy. “There’s a lot of bad blood under the surface between the two agencies right now,” says Bert Foer of the American Antitrust Institute. Barnett and Majoras are also likely to be queried about consolidation in the telecom, agriculture, and oil and gas industries.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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