SEATTLE -- Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced an $80 million national settlement with two drug manufacturers who conspired to illegally manipulate the price and availability of a popular heart medication.
In the settlement reached between all 50 states and drug manufacturers Aventis (formerly Hoechst Marion Roussel), and Andrx, about $434,000 could go to an estimated 15,000 Washington consumers who paid too much for Cardizem CD - a time release medication used to treat chest pain, high blood pressure and heart disease.
It's unknown how much restitution individual consumers will receive since the amount will depend on each individual's insurance coverage, if any, and how many total claims are filed.
State agencies that purchased the medication will receive $126,000, and $150,000 will go to the state in costs and fees.
According to a lawsuit originally filed by 16 states nearly two years ago, Aventis and Andrx illegally conspired to keep a cheaper, generic form of the widely prescribed and expensive heart medication off the market for at least a year. Gregoire said that because of the conspiracy, uninsured consumers paid at least $100 more a year than they would have otherwise.
The states alleged that Aventis conspired with Andrx -- the manufacturer of the cheaper, generic medication -- to keep the generic form of the drug off the market. In return, Andrx received payments of about $90 million.
"A fair return on the development of new drugs is one thing, deliberately blocking a cheaper generic product is illegal and unconscionable," Gregoire said. "These companies were preying on consumers who depend on their product."
Under the settlement, Aventis and Andrx are required to pay $80 million into a fund to compensate consumers, state agencies and insurance companies who overpaid for Cardizem CD and its generic equivalents between 1998 and 2002. The settlement is in addition to an earlier $110 million private settlement between the companies and drug wholesalers who alleged the same conspiracy. In total, the drug companies will be required to pay over $190 million.
A national claims process is currently under development and will be publicized over the next several months. Consumers may file claims for any excess out-of -pocket expenses they incurred as a result of the conspiracy.