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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah joined 44 states in a lawsuit against the nation's largest generic drug manufacturers Monday, alleging they conspired to artificially inflate prices and reduce competition.
The complaint alleges Teva Pharmaceuticals, Sandoz, Mylan, Pfizer and 16 other companies were involved in a coordinated and systematic campaign with each other to fix prices, allocate markets and rig bids for more than 100 different generic drugs.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the price-fixing case has been building for years, and it's time to hold drug manufacturers accountable for manipulating the market.
“It’s outrageous that these companies colluded to inflate prices on generic drugs that should be affordable and increase quality of life for many people, like antibiotics and asthma medication," he said in a statement.
The drugs span all types and classes including tablets, capsules, creams, gel and ointments as well as ace inhibitors, beta blockers, antibiotics, antidepressants, contraceptives and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. They are used to treat many diseases and conditions from basic infections, including diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The lawsuit alleges industry executives met with each other to unlawfully discourage competition, and includes emails, text messages, telephone records, and former company insiders that show a yearslong conspiracy to fix prices and divide the market share for generic drugs.
In some instances, the price increases were more than 1,000 percent, according to the complaint.
The complaint is the second to be filed in an ongoing investigation that has referred to as possibly the largest cartel case U.S. history, according to the attorney general's office.
Last week, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, introduced legislation to bring transparency to the price of prescription drugs and reduce costs for consumers at the pharmacy.
Many health care plans require people to pay “coinsurance,” or a percentage of the total cost for medication. However, the coinsurance payment is often based on a drug’s “list price” rather than on the actual price negotiated by drug manufacturers, wholesalers and insurance companies, according to the senators.
Romney's bill would require all patients’ coinsurance payments be set as a percentage of net price, rather than list price, before or after a deductible is met.
Even when drugs are covered by insurance patients with cost-sharing obligations are often required to pay 30 percent to 40 percent of high drug list prices out of their own pockets, according to the senator.