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Teva sues Corcept over mifepristone 'monopoly' for rare disorder

The logo of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is displayed at the company headquarters in Tel Aviv

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceuticals sued rival drugmaker Corcept Therapeutics in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday, accusing it of monopolizing the market for mifepristone-based Korlym, used to treat a rare hormonal disorder called Cushing's syndrome.

The lawsuit said Corcept and specialty pharmacy Optime Care, the sole distributor of Korlym, orchestrated “a multifaceted scheme to prolong Corcept’s monopoly by stifling competition from Teva at every turn.” Teva accused Corcept of "paying bribes and kickbacks" to physicians to keep them prescribing brand Korlym.

Korlym's active ingredient is mifepristone, the same drug used for medication abortion at the center of Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that rejected a legal challenge seeking to curtail access to the drug for terminating pregnancies.

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Teva's antitrust lawsuit, which does not refer to the drug's use for abortion, said Corcept and Optime have a long-term exclusive-dealing arrangement that bars Optime from distributing any medication that competes with Korlym.

Corcept and Optime did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Teva in a statement said that Corcept's anticompetitive conduct "has prevented patients with Cushing’s syndrome from accessing lower-cost generics to treat their debilitating disease.”

Cushing’s, caused by too much of the hormone cortisol in the body, affects about 20,000 people in the United States and can be fatal, the lawsuit said. Symptoms include abnormal weight gain and a fatty hump between the shoulders.

Teva said it launched its generic version of Korlym five months ago, but “during that time Teva has captured close to zero market share.”

The lawsuit said Teva has tried to convince Optime to distribute Teva's generic Korlym, but Optime has refused.

"Optime’s representatives made clear that there was nothing Teva could do to gain access to the Optime distribution channel," according to the lawsuit.

Teva accused Corcept of artificially inflating the cost of Korlym based on the company’s market power. The lawsuit said a year’s supply of the drug can be “several hundred thousand dollars or more.”

Corcept sued Teva in 2018 in New Jersey federal court for allegedly infringing on Korlym patents. A judge ruled for Teva last year, and Corcept has appealed.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; Editing by David Bario and Rod Nickel)