After a two-year battle, a Dutch health insurer has won a lawsuit that accused AstraZeneca (AZN) of creating an unfair monopoly for one of its most popular medicines by relying on an invalidated patent to thwart lower-cost competition.
At issue was a patent for the antipsychotic tablet Seroquel, which the District Court of the Hague ruled AstraZeneca used to charge “unjustifiably” high prices to health insurers. In its 2018 lawsuit, the Menzis health insurer noted a patent had been invalidated, yet the drug maker attempted to enforce its patent rights and, consequently, a large competitor was forced to delay selling a generic version.
The move occurred as payers in a growing number of countries were pushing back against the rising cost of prescription medicines. Dutch officials, for instance, have regularly tussled with drug makers over the past couple of years. And this particular lawsuit was being closely watched in the Netherlands, because it marked the first time a health insurer took such an action.