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Drug Mart Pharmacy Corp., et al v. American Home Products Corp.

August 16, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gold, Steven M., U.S.M.J.


Now pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgment brought by defendants seeking dismissal of Robinson-Patman Act claims asserted by twenty-eight plaintiffs. Docket Entry 677. The parties have consented to have defendants' motion decided by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. Docket Entry 683. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted.

This complex, long-pending antitrust litigation has been the subject of numerous written decisions by various courts. A sampling of those decisions is listed in Drug Mart Pharmacy Corp. v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 472 F. Supp. 2d 385, 390 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).*fn1 Accordingly, familiarity with the facts and procedural background of the case is presumed, and is reviewed here only briefly.

In short, plaintiffs are a number of individually-owned retail pharmacies.*fn2 Plaintiffs allege that defendants, five manufacturers of brand name prescription drugs ("BNPDs"), offered discounts and rebates to plaintiffs' competitors but not to plaintiffs, and that this constitutes price discrimination in violation of the Robinson-Patman Act.


A. Early Procedural History

At the beginning of this case, a variety of plaintiffs including chain stores as well as individually-owned retail pharmacies brought antitrust claims under both the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 13, and the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. The case was consolidated for all pretrial purposes as a multi-district litigation in the Northern District of Illinois. Def. R.56.1 ¶ 10. See also In re Brand-Name Prescription Drugs Antitrust Litig., 264 F. Supp. 2d 1372 (Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. 2003).

Each of the chain store plaintiffs settled its claims years ago. A Sherman Act class of individually-owned retail pharmacies was certified in 1994. In re Brand-Name Prescription Drugs Antitrust Litig., 264 F. Supp. 2d at 1374. The plaintiffs in this action opted out of the class. The Sherman Act class plaintiffs settled their claims against several of the defendants and proceeded to trial before United States District Judge Kocoras in the Northern District of Illinois against the others. The Court entered a directed verdict in defendants' favor after trial. In re Brand Name Prescription Drugs Antitrust Litig., 1999 WL 639173, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 17, 1999); In re Brand Name Prescription Drugs Antitrust Litig., 1999 WL 33889 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 19, 1999) (granting defendants judgment as a matter of law).

On April 21, 1995, Judge Kocoras issued a case management order referred to as Pretrial Order No. 5 ("PTO 5"). This Order called upon the parties to identify twenty of the retail pharmacies that had opted out of the class action and five of the defendants to serve as representative or "Designated Parties." Pursuant to the terms of the Order, discovery was stayed as to the non-designated parties until the conclusion of the first trial of a designated plaintiff's Robinson-Patman claim; upon the expiration of the stay, the non-designated plaintiffs would have eight months to complete fact and expert discovery on their Robinson-Patman Act claims. PTO 5 ¶ 5.

Both the Sherman and Robinson-Patman Act claims of the individual retail pharmacies that opted out of the class were remanded and consolidated before this Court sometime after the entry of Pretrial Order No. 5. In 2005, the parties settled their Sherman Act claims, leaving only plaintiffs' Robinson-Patman claims pending. Docket Entry 519. Apparently anticipating this possibility, Pretrial Order Number 5 provides that any damages recovered by a plaintiff who proceeds to trial on a Robinson-Patman Act claim must be reduced by any portion of those damages previously recovered in connection with the resolution of the plaintiffs' Sherman Act claims. PTO 5 ¶ 11.

B. Dismissal of Designated Plaintiffs' Robinson-Patman Act Claims

When the claims of the individual retail pharmacies were first transferred here, discovery had proceeded, as provided by PTO 5, only with respect to the designated parties. Once the Sherman Act claims of all of the remaining parties were settled, the designated defendants moved for summary judgment on the Robinson-Patman Act claims of the designated plaintiffs.

In 2007, Senior United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser granted defendants' motion for summary judgment "relating to the [seventeen] representative plaintiffs' claims under the Robinson-Patman Act . . . on the ground that plaintiffs have failed to show they are entitled to damages." Drug Mart Pharmacy Corp. v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 472 F. Supp. 2d 385, 420-21 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) ("Drug Mart II").*fn3 At that time, the designated plaintiffs were relying on an expert report that calculated damages based in part on the fact that plaintiffs paid more for BNPDs than favored purchasers did, and on generalized evidence indicating that the share of the market for BNPDs served by favored purchasers had grown while at the same time individual retail pharmacies had lost market share. Judge Glasser rejected plaintiffs' reliance on the fact of a price differential "[b]ecause damages may not be based on the pricing margin caused by the discrimination, but [should be calculated based] on the estimates of plaintiffs' sales absent the discrimination." Id. at 427. With respect to plaintiffs' evidence of lost market share, Judge Glasser held that "[u]nder the Robinson-Patman Act, plaintiffs must carry their burden of proof to demonstrate that they individually suffered damages. . . . [H]ere, plaintiffs have failed to proffer evidence that specific plaintiff pharmacies lost sales of BNPDs manufactured by defendants to any specific favored purchaser." Id. at 429 (emphasis added).

Having obtained summary judgment with respect to damages, defendants next sought dismissal of the designated plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief. Judge Glasser granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, reasoning that, under the particular circumstances presented here, plaintiffs' failure to establish damages was fatal to their injunctive relief claims. Drug Mart Pharmacy Corp. v. Am. Home Prods. Corp., 2007 WL 4526618 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2007) ("Drug Mart III").

C.Discovery Proceedings Culminating in the Pending Motion

Pretrial Order No. 5 provides that judgments entered after trial or other dispositions of the claims of designated parties do not have res judicata or collateral estoppel effect on the claims of non-designated parties. PTO 5 ¶ 12. Thus, while Judge Glasser's rulings with respect to the designated plaintiffs are uniquely relevant and highly persuasive precedent, they neither bar nor resolve the claims of the non-designated plaintiffs.

After Judge Glasser dismissed the claims of the designated parties, approximately 3,700 individual retail pharmacy plaintiffs remained. Def. R.56.1 ¶ 19. Confronted with Judge Glasser's decision, these remaining plaintiffs devised a plan to gather evidence in discovery that might show "that specific plaintiff pharmacies lost sales of BNPDs manufactured by defendants to any specific favored purchaser." Drug Mart II, 472 F. Supp. 2d at 429. Pursuant to this plan, which came to be known as the "matching process," plaintiffs compiled lists of specific BNPD customers who no longer purchased drugs from them, and then searched the databases of non-party favored purchasers (and one favored purchaser who is a party) to see whether those same individuals were obtaining the same BNPDs from those favored purchasers. The significance of the data developed by the matching process is at the heart of the pending summary judgment motion.

The precise contours of the matching process evolved over time. Indeed, although as noted above Pretrial Order No. 5 contemplated that the non-designated parties would complete fact and expert discovery within eight months, the matching process took considerably longer than that; the process was not completed until May, 2011. Docket Entry 666-1 ¶ 3.

The first conference at which the matching process was discussed in any detail was held on March 4, 2009. At that time, I pressed plaintiffs to explain how they intended to prove that they sustained damages or injury as a result of defendants' price discrimination:

[I]f you're not going to have a patient-specific theory, then I think you need to say so, live with it, and let the defendants test it if they want to. If you are going to have a patient-specific theory, then identify the patients and ask the third parties what records they have of those patients and produce your list of patients in an electronic form that's compatible with the third parties from whom you're seeking discovery so that they can cheaply and efficiently tell you which of your former patients are now patients of theirs. 3/4/09 Tr., Docket Entry 586, at 10. In response, plaintiffs represented that they would base their case upon evidence that specific customers were lost to particular favored purchasers:

[W]e are not suggesting that we would do anything other than put forth patient-specific information. And we're not proposing any kind of extrapolations or use of aggregate data or anything like that. . . . As a pharmacist sits in his pharmacy as a plaintiff in this case, he is able to identify a certain universe of patients who he reasonably believes, based on his own personal knowledge and his own business records, is a lost customer in the sense that we mean it in this litigation, because he knows that that particular patient was getting a long-term maintenance drug from him for a period of years, and that patient is now in a plan where there is a mail-order pharmacy option, and the patient is now getting his maintenance drugs, or some of them at least, filled by the mail-order pharmacy.

Id. at 13-14.

Several court conferences were held to address the details of the matching process and how it would be executed. One such conference was held on November 13, 2009. At that time, plaintiffs reported that they had identified 1.2 million customers who had been purchasing specific BNPDs from 500 plaintiffs but were no longer doing so. Based on that preliminary data, plaintiffs surmised that "at the end of the day we're going to have some material number that isn't going to be three for a pharmacy, or five for a pharmacy." 11/13/09 Tr., Docket Entry 604, at 16.

Yet another conference was held on March 24, 2010. Plaintiffs' counsel reported that it had now become clear that only 894 of the original 3,700 retail pharmacy plaintiffs would be able to identify customers they believed they had lost to favored purchasers. 3/24/10 Tr., Docket Entry 616, at 4. Counsel predicted at that time that these 894 retail pharmacies would demonstrate, through the matching process, that they had lost millions of transactions to favored purchasers. Id. at 6. In June 2010, the claims of 3,101 pharmacy locations were dismissed with prejudice by stipulation. Def. R.56.1 ¶ 59; Stipulation of Dismissal, Docket Entry 626.

Another court conference was held after the matching process data had been analyzed and before defendants brought this motion for summary judgment. At that time, plaintiffs raised the possibility that they would seek additional discovery before the motion was made. 8/11/11 Tr., Docket Entry 667, at 26. Although I afforded plaintiffs an opportunity to apply to take additional discovery, 26-27, they never did so.

1. The Matching Process

The parties ultimately entered into a stipulation that states in pertinent part that, after compiling a database of potential lost customers from their data, Plaintiffs have undertaken a so-called 'matching process' to identify which of those potential lost customers may have filled prescriptions at one of five so-called favored purchasers: Caremark, AdvancePCS, Express Scripts, and Medco (collectively, the "PBMs"), and Omnicare, a long-term care pharmacy. The matching process was designed to determine the universe of potential lost customers that Plaintiffs claim they lost as a result of the pricing practices of Defendants and was subject to the following limitations: (i) the universe of so-called favored purchasers was limited to the four PBMs and Omnicare; (ii) the universe of BNPDs was limited to manufacturer Defendants' top-selling maintenance drugs; and (iii) the time periods searched were limited to data currently maintained by the PBMs and the Plaintiffs.*fn4

Stipulation ¶ 1, Docket Entry 666-1 (emphasis added).

In April, 2010, plaintiffs produced a list of potential lost customers from 831 pharmacy locations.*fn5 Def. R.56.1 ΒΆ 58. In light of the voluminous data involved and the expense of comparing plaintiffs' lists with those of the favored purchasers, a subset of thirty plaintiffs was randomly selected to ...

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