A consumer coalition won another round in its lawsuit alleging price fixing and conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry, as a federal judge in Boston rejected the industry's motion to dismiss the charges. The Prescription Access Litigation project filed the suit in December 2001, charging that drug companies illegally inflate the average wholesale price for drugs at the expense of consumers, who are not afforded the same discounts as other purchasers such as physicians and pharmacies. The complaint also alleges an ongoing conspiracy between pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers and claims that eight drug companies participating in the Together Rx drug discount card are conspiring to raise the average wholesale price of the drugs. A status conference on the case will be held March 8.
In other drug industry news, Schering-Plough Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer proposed that a national charitable foundation be created to administer and coordinate the free-drug offerings that companies have in place for the uninsured. Speaking at the National Medicare Prescription Drug Congress, Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan said a central clearinghouse for free-drug programs would make it easier for patients to apply for the programs and could increase utilization. Companies cannot collectively administer such programs without risking antitrust violations, but a foundation could, Hassan said. "If we establish this simple mechanism, I believe access to free drugs for the uninsured will increase very significantly over the next few years," he said. -- by Cinda Becker and Tony Fong