State settles suits against drug companies

Published 9:57 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

MONTGOMERY – The state of Alabama has agreed to settle Medicaid drug pricing lawsuits it filed against prescription drug manufacturer Bristol Myers Squibb and four other companies, but final details in some cases are still being worked out, lawyers for the state said Friday.

Bristol Myers Squibb, headquartered in New York City, is one of more than 70 companies Alabama has sued for allegedly overcharging its Medicaid program. Earlier this year, state juries returned multimillion-dollar verdicts against three of the pharmaceuticals.

Jere Beasley, a Montgomery lawyer representing the state, said agreements were reached with Bistol Myers Squibb and four other companies. Attorney General Troy King said the details of the settlement with Bristol Myers Squibb are still being negotiated and should be finalized within 30 days.

King said the state has settled its case against St. Louis, Mo.-based Ethex Corp. for $2 million and filed a motion to dismiss the suit. He said final details were being negotiated with the other three drug companies.

“It is our sincere hope that they will be completely resolved within the next 30 days as well,” King said.

The state’s lawsuit against Bristol Myers Squibb had been scheduled to be tried beginning Oct. 27 in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

A spokeswoman for Bristol Myers Squibb, Laura Hortas, said the company did not have any immediate comment.

King sued the drug companies in 2005 over drug prices for Medicaid recipients.

The settlements were reached after the first trials led to jury verdicts in favor of the state.

A jury in February ordered the U.S. subsidiary of the British firm, AstraZeneca, to pay the state $215 million $40 million in compensatory damages and $175 million in punitive damages. But Circuit Judge Charles Price cut the total amount of the damages down to $160 million.

In July, another Montgomery County jury found in favor of the state in lawsuits against the drug companies GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. The jury found GSK liable for nearly $81 million in compensatory damages and found Novartis owed the state about $33 million in similar damages. No punitive damages were awarded.

AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have all appealed their cases to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Prior to those trials, the state settled lawsuits against drug manufacturers Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc. for $2 million and against Dey, LP for $4.75 million.