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States Sue Drug Companies and Execs for Generic Price-Fixing; Is the Tide Turning on Willingness to Allow Big Pharma a Get Out of Jail Free Card for its Egregious Behavior?

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States Sue Drug Companies and Execs for Generic Price-Fixing; Is the Tide Turning on Willingness to Allow Big Pharma a Get Out of Jail Free Card for its Egregious Behavior?

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By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Connecticut state attorney general William Tong led a coalition of 51 state attorneys generas and territories Tuesaday in:

 in filing the third lawsuit stemming from the ongoing antitrust investigation into a widespread conspiracy by generic drug manufacturers to artificially inflate and manipulate prices, reduce competition, and unreasonably restrain trade for generic drugs sold across the United States. This new Complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, focuses on 80 topical generic drugs that account for billions of dollars of sales in the United States. The Complaint names 26 corporate Defendants and 10 individual Defendants. The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties, and actions by the court to restore competition to the generic drug market.

Permit me to quote from the Connecticut press release at length, as it is both more complete and accurate than the secondary press coverage:

“These generic drug manufacturers perpetrated a multibillion-dollar fraud on the American public so systemic that it has touched nearly every single consumer of topical products. Through phone calls, text messages, emails, corporate conventions, and cozy dinner parties, generic pharmaceutical executives were in constant communication, colluding to fix prices and restrain competition as though it were a standard course of business. But they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they took steps to evade accountability, using code words and warning each other to avoid email and detection. Our case is built on hard evidence from multiple cooperating witnesses, millions of records, and contemporaneous notes that paint an undeniable picture of the largest domestic corporate cartel in our nation’s history. Our investigation is ongoing and expanding, and we will not rest until competition is restored and those responsible are held fully accountable,” said Attorney General Tong.

The Complaint stems from an ongoing investigation built on evidence from several cooperating witnesses at the core of the conspiracy, a massive document database of over 20 million documents, and a phone records database containing millions of call detail records and contact information for over 600 sales and pricing individuals in the generics industry. Among the records obtained by the States is a two-volume notebook containing the contemporaneous notes of one of the States’ cooperators that memorialized his discussions during phone calls with competitors and internal company meetings over a period of several years.

This action by most US states and territories is the third lawsuit in a similar vein, with prior actions that remain pending in 2016 and 2019. It targets 26 drug companies, according to Reuters, and accuses the defendants of conspiring to rig the market between 2009 and 2016 for more than 80 drugs.

Let me switch over to a press release issued by the office of Letocia James, New York state attorney general, Attorney General James Challenges Anticompetitive Conduct in the Generic Drug Industry, as it zeroes in on class considerations:

“Generic drugs are meant to provide consumers with reliable, cost-effective alternatives to name-brand medication, but because of a widespread conspiracy between these companies, consumers were left paying the bill while pharmaceutical executives lined their pockets with billions,” said Attorney General James. “These companies put profits over public health, which could have resulted in millions across the country being left without the vital medication they needed. Our coalition includes almost every state, district, territory, and province because Americans across the nation were cheated out of their money and it’s time

The entire swamp of pharmaceutical ‘sales’ needs draining, particularly in light of  evidence that it takes so very little to sway doctors in what they will choose to recommend – ofeering only a meal and certainly less  than any major quid pro quo.

Could we read continuing lawsuit as evidence that states are increasingly fed up with swinish behavior by big Pharma, and decided to claw back some of its feeding at the trough?

I hope so. Because the rest of the world certainly i  fed up with machinations to profit uber alles from the COVID-19 crisis, including directing prophyphlactic recommondations treatment protocols, and research into same  away from cheap, widely avaialable options, such as hydroxychloriquine in favour of new, untested, branded options, including remdesivir. Not to mention a new vaccine – andhughlighting  positioning for profit – compared with the rest of the world, at least some of whom’s public health officials and drug companies  seems more interested in protecting people.

Now, I’m not opining on the contested science behind any of these decisions. Yet someohow, big Pharma has strayed from a historical path where Alexander Fleming opted not to patent penicillin; and Jonas Salk decided likewise not to [atent  his polio vaccine.

One thing the COVID-19 crisis might do is lead us to reconsider the Bayh-Dohl model for commercialization of reaserch that manates from universities – and indeed, the entire patent-driven system. But I leave disussion of those issues to a futhre post.

Some details as to those continuing lawstuits, according to the NY state press release, for you legal junkies out there.:

The two prior state complaints have been consolidated for pretrial purposes in Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) 2724 in federal court in Philadelphia, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As with the earlier complaints, today’s dermatology complaint details pervasive antitrust violations in the industry that inflicted massive harms. It alleges that — to facilitate agreements to fix prices and allocate markets — competitors communicated, for example, when manufacturers were entering or leaving the market, when someone saw an opportunity to raise prices, when market shares were not “fair,” and when competitors did not “play nice.”

The multistate litigation continues to move forward, despite drug manufacturers’ continued attempts to delay a trial in the face of damaging evidence exposed against them. In 2017, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe denied defendants’ motions to dismiss the states’ and other plaintiffs’ overarching conspiracy allegations. Following a case management order that compels defendants to produce significant materials from hundreds of custodians, defendants petitione

The Wall Street Journal has the most extensive coverage of the event, States Sue Drug Companies, Executives Over Alleged Price Fixing. Alas, the most sriking thing about that article, which really does not expand much on what Reuters and the NY state press release is the accompanying photo, given the COVID-19 threeat. Of the 7 people in the background as Tong announced this lawsuit, not a single person, including Tong himself, wore a mask.

And we expect to defeat this pandemic?

Especially given the absence of a vaccine or proven therapies?

The best an andividual can hope for is not catching the disease,

And masks are one of the few safeguards  we can rely on at presemt.

If we acknowledge and understand: My mask doesn’t protect me. It protects you. And yours protects me.

So if we all mask up, we limit spread.

And perhaps by limiting spread,  we could defeat COVID-109.

Or at minimum, alleviate much suffering.

 

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