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U.S. settles with Teva over keeping generic drugs off market

(Adds details on settlement)

WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. government has reached a settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd over charges that its agreements with rivals impeded consumer access to lower-priced generic drugs.

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday said it had settled three reverse payment fights with units of Teva, which will be prohibited from making any similar agreements with competitors in the future.

In a reverse payment scheme, a brand name drug company compensates a generic firm if it agrees to delay in bringing the cheaper version of the drug to market.

"This broad settlement prevents the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs from entering into collusive agreements that prevent price competition by keeping generic drugs off the market," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement.

The oldest of the three cases dates to 2009, when the FTC sued Solvay Pharmaceuticals for paying off Watson Pharmaceuticals, Par Pharmaceutical Co and Paddock Laboratories to delay in bringing out a generic version of AndroGel, a testosterone cream. Watson is now owned by Teva.

The second case dates to 2014 and also involves AndroGel. In this instance, AbbVie Inc, which had acquired the drug, was accused of paying off Teva and another generic maker to again delay bringing out a cheaper version of the medicine.

In the third case, Endo Pharmaceuticals was accused of paying generic companies, including Watson, to refrain from bringing out a generic version of Lidoderm, which is used to relieve nerve pain. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker Editing by Susan Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)