Montana joins lawsuit against drug makers claiming market, price fixing

Attorney General Tim Fox. (Missoula Current file photo)

Attorney General Tim Fox joined Montana with 43 other states in a lawsuit accusing Teva Pharmaceuticals of conspiring with 19 other manufacturers to manipulate the market for generic drugs and raise prices.

Filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, the suit alleges that 20 generic drug makers engaged in “a broad, coordinated, and systematic campaign” to fix prices and rig the bids on more than 100 different generic drugs.

The drugs cover a range of classes and target such diseases as diabetes, epilepsy, cancer and HIV, among others. Some price fixing boosted generic costs by more than 1,000 percent, the lawsuit alleges.

“Montanans have been hit hard by the often shockingly high prices of prescription drugs,” Fox said in a statement. “The evidence in this case shows that some of the most well-known generic drug manufactures were involved in a widespread conspiracy to fix prices and divide up market share, with the direct result of harming consumers in need of life-sustaining medicine.”

The drug makers engaged in illegal conspiracies to divide the drug market and avoid competition. In some cases, the complaint contends, they conspired to either raise prices or prevent them from dropping.

The lawsuit also names 15 senior executives as defendants. The drugs account for billions of dollars in U.S. sales and could have affected insurance markets and other healthcare programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.

“The fact that generic drugs are supposed to be more affordable makes this conduct all the more troubling and harmful,” Fox said. “We are committed to prosecuting and investigating this collusive conduct until these companies are held accountable for the harm they have caused.”

The complaint alleges the competitors met with each other during industry dinners, “girls nights out,” lunches, cocktail parties and golf outings. The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties, and adding more competition to the generic drug market to protect consumers.