Minnesota Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against GlaxoSmithKline Over Reimportation
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch (D) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline alleging that the pharmaceutical company is violating antitrust laws by "spearheading an industry-wide conspiracy" to prevent U.S. residents from reimporting U.S.-made prescription drugs at a lower cost from Canada, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The suit seeks to require GSK to produce documents regarding its boycott of Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies that sell drugs to U.S. consumers online (Majeski, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/1). GSK in January, AstraZeneca in April, Wyeth in June and Pfizer in August implemented policies aimed at restricting some Canadian wholesalers' access to U.S.-made drugs (California Healthline, 8/7). GSK spokesperson Mary Anne Rhyne said the company has not violated antitrust laws, adding, "We have provided [Hatch's] office with a number of U.S. documents and have been in contact with him as late as yesterday about providing him with Canadian documents." Canadian law prohibits companies from releasing some documents, but Rhyne said GSK officials have been working with Canadian authorities to resolve the matter (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/1). The move comes one week after Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) became the third governor in recent weeks to announce plans to consider a program to reimport lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada for state employees and retirees, as well as the 600,000 Minnesota residents enrolled in state health insurance programs. Such a program could save the state $20 million per year. Human Services Commissioner Kevin Goodno this month is working to determine the feasibility of a state prescription drug reimportation program, and Hatch has been appointed the task of determining whether state or federal laws would prohibit such a program (California Healthline, 9/26).
In related news, Hatch on Tuesday released a 50-page report, "Follow the Money: The Pharmaceutical Industry -- The Other Drug Cartel," which states that drug companies have a "powerful lobbying army" with "a long history of effectively killing all attempts to control rising drug prices" (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/1). Hatch said that despite the industry's claim that it needs to devote funds to research on new drugs, in fact 85% of research costs are paid with public funds (deFiebre, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/1). The report asserts that drug companies spend about 35% of revenues on administration and marketing costs but only about 15% on research and development (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/1). Hatch said the industry's lobbyists "outspen[d] tobacco firms by more than four to one," the Star Tribune reports. Wanda Moebius, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "It's completely absurd to compare us to the tobacco industry" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/1).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.