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ATTORNEY GENERAL ROWE ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT
March 10, 2003
MARCH 7, 2003
JOHN BRAUTIGAM, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today a preliminary settlement in an antitrust suit brought against three drug manufacturers. The suit alleges that the manufacturers illegally blocked competition from certain generic drugs, resulting in inflated prices for the popular anti-anxiety drug BuSpar® (BuSpar). Approximately 20 million prescriptions for BuSpar are filled each year in the United States.
Maine joined 36 other states in filing court papers seeking final approval of the settlement. The defendants - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS), Watson Pharma, Inc. and Danbury Pharmacal, Inc. - have agreed to pay over $90 million to settle the case. The settlement is not final until it receives court approval.
The lawsuit alleged that the defendants illegally blocked generic competition by:
1. Entering into an agreement whereby BMS paid millions of dollars to a potential competitor who agreed to refrain from producing a generic version of BuSpar®.
2. Making misrepresentations and false statements to the federal Food & Drug Administration about BMS's patent rights for BuSpar®, causing the FDA to block generic competition.
Attorney General Rowe said, "As if the high prices legally charged by drug companies weren't burdensome enough on Maine people, these companies have struck illegal deals to keep prices high. We hope this suit will have a ripple effect across the drug industry and end these schemes that stifle competition."
If the court approves the settlement, a nationwide consumer fund will be established and administered by the settling states. The consumer fund will compensate consumers who can demonstrate that they purchased BuSpar® between January 1, 1998 and January 31, 2003. Consumers who were taking BuSpar® throughout that period may be eligible to receive as much as $200 to $300. The settlement establishes a process by which consumers will be notified. More information is available at www.busparsettlement.com. Only after all consumer claims are in will funds be disbursed.
The settlement agreement also contains strong injunctive relief that will prevent BMS from engaging in the type of conduct alleged in the complaint for a period of 10 years. Specifically, BMS may not:
1. Make false statements or misrepresentations to the FDA;
2. Attempt to re-list the BuSpar® patent with the FDA;
3. Attempt to list certain other types of patents with the FDA if such listing would unreasonably delay the entry of generic competition; or
4. Enter into any agreement with generic drug enter manufacturers to settle patent infringement suits if the result of such an agreement would potentially adversely affect competition.
Upon final court approval, Maine state government will also receive approximately $500,000 to compensate state agencies that purchased BuSpar® at inflated prices.