February 6, 2017

The Antitrust Week In Review

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

Drug Makers Accused of Fixing Prices on Insulin.  A lawsuit has been filed accusing three makers of insulin of conspiring to drive up the prices of their lifesaving drugs, harming patients who were being asked to pay for a growing share of their drug bills.  The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, with the three manufacturers — Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — raising the list prices of their products in near lock step, prompting outcry from patient groups and doctors who have pointed out that the rising prices appear to have little to do with increased production costs.  The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, accuses the companies of exploiting the country’s opaque drug-pricing system in a way that benefits themselves and the intermediaries known as pharmacy benefit managers.

EU Probes Online Sales in Electronics, Video Games, Hotels.  EU antitrust regulators opened three investigations on Thursday into 15 companies suspected of restricting online sales of electronics, video games and hotel rooms to deny consumers choice and prevent them from buying at the lowest prices.  The EU aims to boost online cross-border sales and stop “geo-blocking” — restricting offers based on a customer’s location — which runs counter to its goal of a single market for digital goods and services that would underpin economic growth.  “E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

NCAA Agrees to Pay $208 Million Settlement in Antitrust Case.  The NCAA and 11 major athletic conferences announced Friday night they have agreed to pay $208.7 million to settle a federal class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by former college athletes who claimed the value of their scholarships was illegally capped.  The settlement still must be approved by a judge and it does not close the antitrust case.  The NCAA said in a statement the association and conferences “will continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play.”

Walgreens and Rite Aid Cut Price of Merger.  Concerns about regulatory approval have weighed on Walgreens Boots Alliance’s bid to buy a top drugstore rival, Rite Aid, as the two cut the price of the deal while pushing back the expected closing date by six months.  In a joint statement, the retailers said that they would cut the price of the takeover to between $6.50 a share and $7 a share, potentially revaluing the transaction to as little as $6.8 billion.  When the transaction was announced in 2015, Walgreens had agreed to pay $9 a share, or $9.4 billion.

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