AARP Joins Three Class-Action Lawsuits Accusing Rx Drug Manufacturers of Blocking Generic Competition
As expected, AARP, an advocacy group for Americans ages 50 and older, announced plans yesterday to join the Boston-based Prescription Access Litigation Project in three class-action lawsuits that charge pharmaceutical companies with "illegally blocking generic competitors," the Wall Street Journal reports (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 5/30). In the past year, PAL, a coalition of 75 consumer and health groups, has filed 30 class-action lawsuits that accuse large drug companies of improperly inflating prices for a number of treatments (California Healthline, 5/29). AARP decided to join three of the lawsuits "because they involve drugs widely used by people ages 50 and older" (Wall Street Journal, 5/30). The cases include:
- The BuSpar case, in which plaintiffs allege that Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. engaged in a series of "illegal actions designed to maintain its monopoly" on BuSpar, an anti-anxiety treatment;
- The K-Dur 20 case, in which plaintiffs allege that Schering-Plough Corp., Upsher-Smith Laboratories and American Home Products Corp. -- re-named Wyeth earlier this year -- "conspired illegally" to prevent a generic version of K-Dur 20, a potassium supplement, from reaching the market; and
- The Tamoxifen case, in which plaintiffs allege that Astra-Zeneca PLC and Barr Laboratories "colluded illegally" to prevent a generic version of Tamoxifen, a breast cancer treatment, from reaching the market (PAL release, 5/29).
AARP Executive Director William Novelli said that the group decided to join the lawsuits as part of a new $10 million legislative, legal and educational campaign to reduce prescription drug costs (Washington Post, 5/30). Novelli said, "Generic drugs approved by the FDA give consumers quality alternatives at reasonable prices. Our aim is to help people get affordable access to the drugs they need" (Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger, 5/30).
The pharmaceutical industry denied the allegations in the lawsuits and criticized AARP's decision to participate in the cases. Jeffrey Trewhitt, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Instead of working with ... Congress and the White House, AARP has chosen to team up with the nation's trial lawyers. That's not going to resolve the pharmaceutical access problem" (Pear, New York Times, 5/30). He added that AARP "maybe should be more focused on urging Congress to reform the problem through Medicare drug coverage" (Wall Street Journal, 5/30). According to the Times, AARP's decision to join the lawsuits will add to the "legal fire power" of PAL plaintiffs but does not "ensure that they will prevail." However, Eric Weissenstein, an analyst with the Charles Schwab Washington Research Group, said, "If enough pressure is brought to bear through litigation like this, it could affect the strategies that drug companies use to set prices and to preserve their market position" (New York Times, 5/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.