Major lawsuit alleges 20 drug companies fixed drug prices, as patients struggle to cover costs

National

RICHMOND, Va. — Twenty of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are accused of massive fraud to control drug prices. The lawsuit was filed by 44 attorneys general from across the United States, including Virginia’s Mark Herring.

The suit claims businesses, like Citron, Heritage and Mylan to name a few, came together and secretly planned to raise the prices of more than 100 generic drugs to cut down on competition. 

“Executives at these companies got together at social events, text messages, emails and so forth to raise prices to allocate markets,” Attorney General Herring explained. “That’s wrong and it’s hurting people.” 

This is the second suit filed as part of an ongoing investigation, the initial case was filed in 2016. A number of these companies have made statements to national media outlets denying these allegations.  

Some of the drug prices went up as much as a thousand percent, according to the lawsuit. The list includes antibiotics, creams, contraceptives, as well as medicines to treat cancer and diabetes. 

One medicine mentioned, Budesonide for oral inhalation, is crucial for infants and young children with asthma, according to Dr. William Hark of Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists. It’s used in a nebulizer machine for children to breath into on a daily basis. These patients are too young to use an inhaler on their own. 

Not taking this medicine regularly could send kids to the hospital, Dr. Hark says, but families are struggling to cover the costs. 

“What happens, sometimes, is they say they’re going to take it and then they end up in the emergency room a few months later,” he explained. “You find out that they haven’t been taking it because they can’t afford it or they really try rationing it out and giving it maybe every couple of days.”

The prices range according to your insurance plan or if you don’t have coverage, but Dr. Hark says it can sometimes cost as much as a “heating bill or rent.” 

“Some of these families will have to choose between medication for their child and maybe something else,” Dr. Hark said. “Even patients with insurance are still prone with getting hit by these costs.”

Following the case being heard in court, Attorney General Herring hopes patients in Virginia will get money back. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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