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In Re Neurontin Antitrust Litigation v. Pfizer

January 25, 2011

IN RE NEURONTIN ANTITRUST LITIGATION LOUISIANA WHOLESALE DRUG COMPANY, INC., MEIJER INC. AND MEIJER DISTRIBUTION, INC., ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PFIZER, INC. AND WARNER-LAMBERT CO., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Faith S. Hochberg, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO:

HOCHBERG, District Judge:

This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion for Class Certification [Docket #226] filed by Louisiana Wholesale Drug Company, Inc., Meijer, Inc., and Meijer Distribution, Inc., et al. (collectively, "Plaintiffs") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The Court has considered the submissions of the parties, including their memoranda of law and the exhibits attached thereto; all expert reports submitted by the parties, including the merits report of Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. French;*fn1 Plaintiffs' Trial Plan and Defendants' response thereto; and the parties' proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on April 13, 2010 and September 13, 2010.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiffs in the instant action each directly purchased Neurontin, a brand-name version of the drug compound gabapentin anhydrous ("gabapentin"), from Defendants Pfizer, Inc. and Warner-Lambert Company, LLC (collectively, "Warner-Lambert").*fn3 In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Warner-Lambert engaged in an overarching anticompetitive scheme to acquire and maintain monopoly power in the market for gabapentin products in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2. Warner-Lambert is alleged to have carried out this scheme by:

(1) procuring two additional patents that it improperly listed in the Orange Book;

(2) manipulating the patent approval process so that a third patent with claims so limited that they are impossible to accurately measure or distinguish from the prior art enabling the patent to be used to delay generic entry; (3) filing and prosecuting multiple sham lawsuits on these patents that no reasonable litigant could have expected to succeed; and (4) engaging in fraudulent off-label promotion to convince doctors to prescribe Neurontin for uses for which it was not approved.

DPNC Complaint ¶ 29. Plaintiffs claim that these actions were designed to, and did in fact, delay the entry of generic gabapentin into the market until late 2004. Plaintiffs allege that but for Warner-Lambert's anticompetitive scheme, generic manufacturers would have entered the market at lower prices as early as 2000. As a result of this delayed entry, Plaintiffs contend that they and other direct purchasers of Neurontin were foreclosed from the opportunity of purchasing lower-priced generic versions of the drug for years, and were accordingly compelled to pay non-competitive prices for gabapentin. Plaintiffs seek damages for this overcharge pursuant to Sections 4 and 16 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 15 and 26.

Plaintiffs now move for certification of a class of similarly situated entities (the "Class") under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3) defined as follows:

All persons or entities in the United States that purchased Neurontin from [Warner-Lambert] at any time during the period of December 11, 2002 through August 31, 2008. Excluded from the Class are Defendants, and each of their respective parents, employees, subsidiaries, affiliates, and franchisees, and all governmental entities.*fn4

Plaintiffs also request that this Court designate the Plaintiffs as Class Representatives, and that proposed Class Counsel be appointed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(g).*fn5

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard Governing Class Certification

To obtain certification, Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the proposed class satisfies all four prerequisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a), as well as one of the three sets of criteria set out in Rule 23(b). See, e.g., Georgine v. Amchem Prods., Inc., 83 F.3d 610, 624 (3d Cir. 1996); Baby Neal v. Casey, 43 F.3d 48, 55 (3d Cir. 1994). Class certification cannot be presumed and must only be entered after a "rigorous analysis" that the requirements of Rule 23 are met. Gen. Tel. Co. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982). As part of this rigorous analysis, the Court "must make whatever factual and legal inquiries are necessary and must consider all relevant evidence and arguments presented by the parties." In re Hydrogen Peroxide Antitrust Litig., 552 F.3d 305, 307 (3d Cir. 2008). In making these inquiries, "the Court must resolve all factual or legal disputes relevant to class certification, even if they overlap with the merits - including disputes touching on elements of the cause of action." Id. Any "[f]actual determinations necessary to make Rule 23 findings must be made by a preponderance of the evidence." Id. at 320. "In other words, to certify a class the district court must find that the evidence more likely than not establishes each fact necessary to meet the requirements of Rule 23." Id.

B. Rule 23(a) Requirements

Rule 23(a) requires Plaintiffs to show that:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a); Amchem, 521 U.S. at 613. These prerequisites are commonly known as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. Baby Neal, 43 F.3d at 55. They are "meant to assure both that class action treatment is necessary and efficient and ...


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