Hearst Agrees To FTC Settlement Terms

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(AP) The Hearst Corp. has tentatively agreed to divest a drug database company and pay back $19 million in profits to settle antitrust charges, the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday.

The agreement must still be approved by the Commission.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Hearst would hand over the Medi-Span drug database business to Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Lippincott, a subsidiary of the Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer, is a Philadelphia-based publisher of health information.

The FTC had already filed a complaint in federal court demanding that Hearst create a new company to act as a competitor.

Hearst officials did not immediately return calls by The Associated Press.

Trade commissioners allege The Hearst Corp., a privately held media company based in New York, violated antitrust rules when it bought the computer database company Medi-Span in 1998.

Medi-Span was the only major competitor for The Hearst Corp.’s original database company, First DataBank, the FTC alleges.

The complaint also accuses The Hearst Corp. of withholding information necessary for a pre-merger, antitrust review in 1998.

The drug databases hold comprehensive clinical and pricing information on prescription drugs. After Hearst acquired Medi-Span, prices for database access were raised, sometimes doubled, the FTC said.

The commission’s complaint also names The Hearst Trust, a family held trust also based in New York, as a defendant. On Oct. 11, Hearst agreed to pay $4 million to settle the charges, the FTC said.

Hearst Corp., is a media giant that publishes several magazines and 12 daily newspapers. The company also owns 26 television stations and is a partner in the ESPN, A&E, The History Channel, and Lifetime cable networks.

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