Drug makers under federal scrutiny

The pharmaceutical company Glaxo SmithKline, makers of Paxil, has agreed to pay several states a total of $14 million to settle assertions the drug maker blocked generic forms of Paxil, which caused the states to pay higher prices.

The states, which include Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, alleged the London-based drug maker used frivolous patent infringement lawsuits against the makers of the generic drug, which resulted in automatic extensions of the patent for Paxil, an antidepressant drug.

The AP reported GSK’s action delayed the introduction of generic forms of the drug, resulting in higher prices for both Medicaid programs and the general public, according to the attorneys general who won the settlement in federal court in Philadelphia.

The settlement is essentially for purchases made by Medicaid, a government program for the poor jointly financed by the states and the federal government. The states also will get money for other needs for indigent care.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon released a statement that said: “GSK used the courts to hold onto a monopoly for a popular drug, and the end result was that consumers—including Medicaid—paid more than they should have. This settlement demonstrates that we won’t allow pharmaceutical companies to be rewarded for actions that penalize consumers.”

Critics term the patent extension “evergreening,” but the drug makers argue it is a legitimate safeguard for the results of costly research. A spokesman for GSK said the company does not admit any wrongdoing and did not admit liability in making the settlement.

Company spokesman Gaile Renegar said: “We made the decision that settling was appropriate to avoid the expense and distraction of protracted litigation.”

The attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia signed onto the agreement. Only West Virginia did not take part.

In another drug company matter, the Wall Street Journal last week revealed a federal investigation into the marketing of Pfizer pharmaceutical company’s anti-cholesterol medication Lipitor. The Philadelphia Inquirer said Pfizer officials stated the company has cooperated with the investigation, which is focused on alleged illegal marketing methods. It seeks to determine if Pfizer marketed Lipitor for off-label uses. Off-label uses are ones that do not come under federal guidelines.

Pfizer spokesman Andrew McCormick said: “We do not know who initiated or why an investigation was initiated in Brooklyn, but we have been cooperating with that investigation and have seen no merit in any of the claims in the matter.”

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in New York said the office does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

The Inquirer said a Teamsters health insurance fund has filed a separate lawsuit against Pfizer over allegations that the company “illegally promoted Lipitor to the public and prescribing physicians by promoting the off-label use of the drug.”

From the April 5-11, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!