I was shocked - shocked! - to read in the Economist last week that drug companies, faced with the prospect of superprofits on patented drugs evaporating when the patents expire and the off-patent drugs can be substituted by much cheaper 'generics', have been paying generics producers not to enter the market.
The Economist says "Since the early 2000s “pay for delay” agreements have become more common. A company with a patent due to expire strikes a deal: it pays potential entrants a fee not to compete, preserving its monopoly. A pay-for-delay deal between AstraZeneca and three big generic manufacturers helped to protect Nexium from competition between 2008 and May 2014".
I don't know what the legal status of these contracts is in the US, but I do know what our competition law says. "No person", says s27 of the Commerce Act, "shall enter into a contract or arrangement, or arrive at an understanding, containing a provision that has the purpose, or has or is likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition in a market", and if "pay for delay" isn't one of those contracts, agreements, or understandings, then I don't know what is.
The American Constitution wisely forbids "cruel and unusual punishments", which is just as well, as otherwise there would be a good case for tattooing the words of s27 or its American equivalent in large letters on the foreheads of the corporate executives involved.