In mid-2008, the FDA barred Ranbaxy from shipping into the U.S more than 30 different drugs made at factories in India. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice demanded Ranbaxy turn over internal documents, alleging the company lied about ingredients and formulations of some medications.
In early 2009, the FDA said it would not consider any new applications from Ranbaxy to sell in the U.S. any products made at the troubled factories.
As FDA discussions with Ranbaxy continued, it appeared Ranbaxy would lose its shot at a revenue windfall when Lipitor's generic U.S. patent expired last Nov. 30. At the time, Lipitor brought in almost $8 billion a year in U.S. sales.
As often happens when patents first expire, for the first six months only one generic rival could compete with brand-name Lipitor. Ranbaxy had that right, although an authorized generic from Lipitor maker Pfizer Inc. and partner Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. went on sale on Dec. 1. With competition so limited, the generic prices only declined a bit from brand-name drug's price of about $115 a month — until several other generics entered the market six months later.
The FDA finally ended the suspense, deciding just before midnight on Nov. 30 to let Ranbaxy sell generic Lipitor made at the company's Ohm Laboratories factory in central New Jersey. It was unclear Friday whether the recalled Ranbaxy pills were made there or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Ranbaxy is operating under a settlement with the FDA, called a consent decree, signed on Dec. 20, 2011. It requires Ranbaxy to improve manufacturing procedures, ensure data on its products is accurate and undergo extra oversight and review by an independent third party for five years. Ranbaxy at the time set aside $500 million to cover potential criminal and civil liability stemming from the Justice Department investigation.