Consumer Groups Sue Bristol-Myers
NEW YORK (AP) _ A coalition of consumer groups has sued Bristol-Myers Squibb over the pharmaceutical company’s effort to stop another company from selling a low-cost generic version of an anti-anxiety drug.
The Prescription Access Litigation project, which plans to sue other manufacturers in the coming months, contends that Bristol-Myers Squibb illegally tried to maintain a monopoly on the anti-anxiety drug BuSpar.
The lawsuits were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and in state courts in New York, Florida and Maine.
``We believe these lawsuits are without merit,″ Bristol-Myers Squibb spokesman Patrick Donohue told The New York Times Sunday. ``We intend to vigorously defend the company’s actions.″
BuSpar has been on the market for 15 years and had sales of $709 billion, making it the company’s fifth biggest selling drug.
Mylan and Watson Pharmaceuticals had planned to launch a generic version of BuSpar on Nov. 22, but on Nov. 21, Bristol-Myers Squibb received a new patent for the drug from the Food and Drug Administration. The new patent was granted to cover a molecule patients create when they ingest BuStar, and it prevented Mylan and Watson from selling the generic drug.
Mylan argued in court that Bristol’s patent couldn’t prevent the sale of a generic version of the drug, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed in a finding last month.
But Bristol-Myers Squibb, based in Princeton, N.J., is appealing that decision.
The new lawsuit filed Friday alleges that Bristol’s actions in obtaining the new patent violates antitrust law, and seeks to have the company barred from taking similar actions in the future.
Plaintiffs in the consumer coalition include the New York Statewide Senior Action Council, Citizen Action of New York, Consumers for Affordable Health Care Foundation, Health Care For All, and the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. The coalition says its lawsuit is the first in which consumer groups have turned to the courts for help in fighting the soaring costs of prescription drugs.
``Consumers all over the country are demanding a way to end the escalating price pressure from drugs,″ PAL project director Kim Shellenberger said in a statement. ``Some groups have worked to create subsidy programs in their states. Others have organized trips to Canadian pharmacies. But none of that’s made a dent in prices. Now we’re ready to fight back.″