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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2002
Gregoire Takes Aim at Drug Companies


SEATTLE -- Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire today pledged to aggressively pursue drug and vitamin manufacturers who illegally manipulate the price and availability of their products.

Gregoire's remarks came at a press conference in which she discussed her office's efforts against illegally inflated drug prices.

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VITAMINS SETTLEMENT DISTRIBUTION RECIPIENTS

The attorney general's Antitrust Division has successfully pursued two cases against vitamin and drug manufacturers in the last two years. It has two other cases pending, and a fifth under investigation.

All cases involve one or more illegal acts that Gregoire said are intended to stifle competition and inflate prices. These acts include multiple companies reaching price agreements in order to eliminate competition, abusing patent laws to keep less expensive, generic versions of various drugs off the market, or illegally controlling supplies of a medication's active ingredients to increase the price.

Gregoire said these actions have cost consumers and taxpayers as much as $20 million in extra charges.

"Our investigation found that people all over Washington are paying millions of dollars more than they should for essential prescriptions. The actions we are taking will discourage illegal pricing and make patients-not illegal profits-the highest priority, " Gregoire said.

"Delays have robbed - and continue to rob - consumers of millions of dollars in savings they would receive from purchasing generics," agreed Jo Senters, state director of AARP, who joined Gregoire at the press conference.

AARP is planning on joining several lawsuits around the county that will help consumers gain access to lower cost prescription drugs, Senters said.

In the latest development involving one of the cases pursued by the Attorney General's Office, Gregoire announced the distribution of nearly $5.8 million in customer restitution funds to nutritional, agricultural and dietary research programs in Washington state.

The $5.8 million consumer restitution program is the result of the October 2000 settlement with six companies that illegally conspired to raise the price of vitamins sold directly to consumers or used in the production of many food items. As a result of the conspiracy, all Washington consumers paid illegally inflated prices for food.

Because of the difficulty and cost of making refunds to individual consumers, however, the money was dedicated to health and nutrition programs, or to nutritional, dietary or agricultural research.

The funds will go to 29 different agencies statewide with amounts ranging from $25,000 to $829,200. (See attached list for recipients)

In the other settled case, at least 2,650 Washington consumers who filed claims will share $322,572 in restitution as a result of a settlement with Mylan Laboratories, the manufacturer of two widely prescribed medications used by the elderly. An additional $652,000 will eventually be distributed to Washington consumers under a court-approved plan.

In that case, the company was accused of engaging in a scheme that resulted in price hikes of up to 3,000 percent. The medications in question are lorazepam and clorazepate, two generic drugs widely used to treat anxiety and hypertension in the elderly and infirm.

Washington also recently joined a case against Bristol-Myers Squibb, manufacturer of the anti-anxiety medication BuSpar, for allegedly manipulating federal patent law to keep a less expensive generic version of the drug off the market.

The Attorney General's Office is seeking an undetermined amount of overpayments made by state agencies, including the Department of Social and Health Services, the state-supported Uniform Medical Plan, the Department of Corrections, and Eastern and Western State Hospitals.

Other cases currently being pursued by the Attorney General's Office include one against drug manufacturers Aventis (formerly Hoechst Marion Roussel) and Andrx, who allegedly manipulated patent laws to keep a generic form of Cardizem CD - a time release medication used to treat chest pain, high blood pressure and heart disease - off the market.

That conspiracy, the state alleges, forced consumers and taxpayers to pay higher prices for the medication.

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VITAMINS SETTLEMENT DISTRIBUTIONRECIPIENTS

Name of Organization

Amount Recommended

Program

Program Description

Area Served

Washington State University Foundation

$ 207,494

Ascorbate (vitamin C) supplements, oxalate and risk of kidney stones

This study will determine the effect of taking 2000 mg per day of Vitamin C on the risk of kidney stone formation.

Impact will be state-wide.

South Seattle Community College Foundation - APPLE Parenting Program

$ 70,000

Bananas, Bones and Brains: The Family Nutrition and Health Project

The Bananas, Bones and Brains Project will strengthen the health and nutrition components of the SSCC Home and Family Life Programs, which serve five hundred families each year.

South King County.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Pierce County

$ 295,259

Boys & Girls Clubs of Pierce County Nutrition Program

Upgrade kitchens at four of five sites that provide after school and summer meals and snacks to 600 low-income children per day.

Four sites in Pierce County.

Kittitas County Health Department (KCHD)

$ 62,000

Building an Infrastructure for Breastfeeding Services and Support (BIBSS)

Provide training and support to women in Kittitas County, in order to increase the length of time mothers breastfeed their babies.

Kittitas County

Washington State University Foundation

$ 174,908

Can Phytoestrogens Improve Cognitive Function in Healthy Elderly Women?

Investigation of plant-based estrogen-like compounds as alternative approaches to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopausal symptoms, such as memory loss.

Impact will be state-wide.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest

$ 25,000

Commodity Supplemental Food Program

Unreimbursed start-up and initial operation costs for a pilot site for a federal program that works to improve the health of low-income pregnant and breast-feeding women, other new mothers and infants, and the elderly.

Spokane County and other SHFB sites in eastern Washington.

Cross Cultural Health Care Program

$ 447,785

Cross Cultural Community Health and Nutrition Demonstration Project

Diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and other nutrition education/health promotion activities for communities underserved and unserved by other programs in the Seattle-King County area.

Seattle-King County

Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center

$ 190,449

Develop Family and Community Based Resources to Provide Clinical Guidance for Children with Obesity

Information and support for doctors and families concerning treatment for overweight and obese children, targeting the African-American and Hispanic communities.

Impact will be state-wide.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

$ 331,177

Farmland Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring, Education, and Reduction (F.A.R.M.E.R.)

This project will study factors influencing antibiotic resistance related to livestock production and intervene to limit the threat of these resistant microbes in Washington.

Impact will be state-wide.

SE WA Office of Aging and Long Term Care

(an 8-county consortium sponsored by Yakima County)

$ 131,198

Food for Life

Nutritional assessments, distribution of nutritional materials, and development/assessment of a Farmer’s Market Outreach Program to provide fresh fruit/vegetable baskets semi-monthly to home bound seniors in eight Central Washington counties, including a large Hispanic population.

Southeast Washington

(8 counties)

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Washington

$ 142,868

Health and Nutrition Education and Outreach

Develop and distribute new health and nutrition educational materials to low-income mothers and pregnant women and to physicians, dentists, health and social service organizations.

Impact will be state-wide.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

$ 394,744

Health Risks and Benefits of Dietary Supplements

Evaluate whether supplements are associated with risk of cancer and a wider range of conditions, e.g., cardiovascular, eye and bone diseases, enabling Washington residents who take supplements to make more informed choices.

Impact will be state-wide.

Group Health Cooperative

$ 565,555

Health Trek - Nutrition and Media Literacy

Implementation of a 3-year nutrition education program that includes training in nutrition for health and science teachers, a Health Trek nutrition curriculum, hands-on exhibits, media literacy training, and web-based interactive lessons.

Impact will be state-wide.

Eastern Washington University Foundation

$ 49,987

Healthy Start

Serve rural, remote, medically underserved, and low-income pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, focussing on nutrition for healthy physical and cognitive development and benefits of breastfeeding.

Eastern Washington

Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington

$ 50,000

Native American Nutrition Awareness

Deliver information and motivation to 8 Indian reservations of Western Washington on issues of nutrition, in order to improve nutritional habits among low-income families, particularly the elderly and families with children.

8 sites in Western Washington

Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe

$ 10,000

Nutrition Education for Everyone

Funding for a contract nutritionist to improve the nutritional status of Port Gamble S'Klallam Reservation community members through small classes addressing nutritional issues related to Type II diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Kitsap County

Central Washington University Foundation

$ 91,068

Nutrition status enhancement of Washington state Hispanic clients through cultural awareness (over 3 years)

Training for professional dieticians in the Hispanic culture and the Spanish language in order to meet the specific nutritional/health related concerns of the growing Hispanic population in Washington.

Central Washington

Washington State University Foundation

$ 253,543

Optimizing Vitamin E Protection in the Diabetic Population

The goal of this 2-year program is to aid in the development of scientifically based recommendations for optimal vitamin E doses to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes.

Impact will be state-wide.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest, Yakima Branch

$ 28,500

Perishable Food Distribution Project

Purchase of a forklift for the Perishable Food Distribution Project at SHFB's Yakima Branch warehouse, which serves approximately 42 agencies in the Yakima Valley and Central Washington.

Yakima and surrounding area

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest (formerly the Spokane Food Bank)

$ 28,500

Perishable Food Distribution Project

Purchase of a forklift for SHFB's Spokane Perishable Food Distribution Project, replacing one that broke down beyond repair. This warehouse serves nearly 260 collaborating nonprofit agencies in 19 Eastern Washington counties.

Spokane and surrounding area

Community Health Education and Resources (CHER)

(a division of Inland Northwest Health)

$ 39,237

Preconception Diabetes and Folic Acid Education

Improve the ability of health care providers to identify and provide preconception diabetes information, counseling and services, and increase the knowledge of women of child-bearing age about pre-conception folic acid requirements.

Spokane and Eastern Washington

Council on Aging & Human Services

( a community based agency)

$ 27,100

Purchase of walk in freezer & used delivery truck for Whitman County Food Programs

Purchase a centrally located walk in freezer and replace a 1966 cargo truck used for commodity and emergency food program distributions to 12 rural emergency food distribution sites throughout Whitman County.

Pullman - Whitman County

Bastyr University

$ 91,440

Purity, Viability and Characteristics of Lactobacillus Dietary Supplements

Investigate the safety and efficacy of the dietary Lactobacillus supplements that are available to Washington consumers.

Impact will be state-wide.

Bastyr University

$ 121,847

Standardization of Nutritional/Herbal Supplements (Nutraceuticals)using HPLC

Develop analytical methods for standardization of the quality and nutritional content of nutritional supplements (nutraceuticals).

Impact will be state-wide.

Washington State University Foundation

$ 46,755

Suppression of breast cancer cell growth by garlic components in vivo

This study will add to other work on the effect of garlic, which has anti-cancer growth-suppressive effects, on the development and growth of breast cancer cells.

Impact will be state-wide.

University of Washington Foundation

$ 829,200

The Center for Public Health Nutrition

The Center for Public Health Nutrition will work with community-based organizations to address growing rates of obesity, by promoting community-based approaches to improving nutrition and physical activity.

Impact will be state-wide.

The Heart Institute of Spokane

$ 471,588

The Heart Institute of Spokane Diet Intervention and Evaluation Trial (THIS-DIET)

This project will study the effects of the Mediterranean and the American Heart Association Step 2 "heart healthy" diets on repeat heart attacks and death from heart attack, compared to a database control group.

Spokane,although impact will be state-wide.

Children's Alliance

$ 35,840

The Voice of Washington's Children and Families

Conduct a series of 6 focus groups of children and families across Washington in a mix of urban and rural sites to collect their critical views about federal nutrition programs and household access to nutritious food and physical activity.

Impact will be state-wide.

City of Seattle Aging and Disability Services et al

$ 570,000

Washington State Senior Farm Produce Program (over 3 yrs)

Improve the nutritional status and health of low-income seniors in WA by providing them with fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms, as a means to help prevent or manage chronic illness.

Impact will be state-wide.

 

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