Leading US drug companies conspired to inflate prices of common medicines by up to 1,000%, prosecutors say

Industry-wide scheme affects prices of more than 100 treatments used for HIV, asthma, cholesterol, ADHD and anti-depressants, huge legal case alleges

Heather Murphy
Sunday 12 May 2019 18:11
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Lawsuit filed by 44 states alleges leading drug companies conspired to raise prices of vital medicines by 1,000%
Lawsuit filed by 44 states alleges leading drug companies conspired to raise prices of vital medicines by 1,000%

Leading drug companies including Teva, Pfizer, Novartis and Mylan conspired to inflate the prices of generic drugs by as much as 1,000 per cent, according to a far-reaching lawsuit filed on Friday by 44 states.

The industry-wide scheme affected the prices of more than 100 generic drugs, according to the complaint, including lamivudine-zidovudine, which is used to treat HIV; budesonide, an asthma medication; fenofibrate, which is used to treat high cholesterol; amphetamine-dextroamphetamine for ADHD; oral antibiotics; blood thinners; cancer drugs; contraceptives; and antidepressants.

In court documents, the state prosecutors lay out a brazen price-fixing scheme involving more than a dozen generic drug companies and just as many executives responsible for sales, marketing and pricing.

The complaint alleges that the conspirators knew their efforts to thwart competition were illegal and that they therefore avoided written records by coordinating instead at industry meals, parties, golf outings and other networking events.

The bulk of the collusive activity occurred from July 2013 to January 2015, according to the complaint, when Teva raised prices on nearly 400 formulations of 112 generic drugs.

A key element of the scheme, the complaint alleges, was an agreement among competitors to cooperate on pricing so each company could maintain a “fair share” of the generic drug markets.

At the same time, the companies colluded to raise prices on as many drugs as possible, according to the complaint.

Although the complaint paints Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, which is based in Pennsylvania, as a leader in the conspiracy, it describes the conduct as “pervasive and industry-wide”.

Teva denied the allegations.

“Teva continues to review the issue internally and has not engaged in any conduct that would lead to civil or criminal liability,” the company said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Connecticut, where the multi-state investigation began.

It is a more expansive version of a suit filed in December 2016 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Pfizer denied any wrongdoing in a statement on Saturday.

The company said that Greenstone, a Pfizer subsidiary, “has been a reliable and trusted supplier of affordable generic medicines for decades and intends to vigorously defend against these claims”.

The New York Times

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