Court to decide if private drug companies can influence generic drugs with 'pay-for-delay' deals

Ruling will be made before summer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court is considering whether drug companies should be allowed to pay generic drugmakers to keep lower-priced versions off the market for a while.

Justices will hear arguments Monday from federal officials trying to outlaw so-called "pay-for-delay" deals. That's when a brand-name drugmaker pays a generic drugmaker challenging its drug patent to settle and launch a generic version on an agreed-upon date.

Federal officials, consumer and doctor groups say those deals cost American taxpayers $3.5 billion annually by delaying the launch of cheaper generics.

Drugmakers and their supporters argue that these deals save them litigation costs and often bring generics to market faster. They say generic drugs saved American patients, taxpayers and the health care system an estimated $193 billion in 2011 alone.

The court will rule before summer.

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