ST. PAUL, Minn. – As prescription drug prices have been climbing, a new lawsuit alleges generic drug companies colluded to make them even higher.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson joined with more than 40 other Attorneys General in filing suit against 18 generic drug makers. It accuses them of working together to maintain and increase high prices.
The suit was initially filed against six drug makers in late 2016. Tuesday, 12 more pharmaceutical companies were added.
“The scale of the collusion among competitors is eye popping,” Swanson told KARE 11.
The generic drug industry is intended to be competitive to keep prices low. But the suit alleges price fixing was “widespread around the industry.”
Some of that price fixing was directed from here in Minnesota.
“Minnesota was ground zero for much of the allegations in the complaint,” Swanson said.
According to the complaint, pharmaceutical sales reps would gather at meetings and dinners to discuss the price fixing scheme. Swanson says many of those events were organized by a Minnesota-based saleswoman for Heritage Pharmaceuticals.
“They were getting together and agreeing to raise prices and the patients have no say in it,” Swanson said.
Other collusion allegedly happened via text message and phone call. The complaint shows Heritage reps called and texted competitors more than 500 times in one year. Teva Pharmaceutical reps made more than 1,000 calls and texts to competitors.
The result, authorities say, was higher prices on drugs like diabetes medication and antibiotics. One drug mentioned in the complaint, doxycycline, saw a price increase of more than 1,000 percent since 2011, according to a Tegna investigation.
“What's especially galling about it is that these are life-saving drugs for people that they need. And to think these competitors were getting together to increase prices to the detriment of patients who are sick is beyond troubling,” Swanson said.