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Humana files suit against 37 drug makers accusing them of price fixing

The conspiracy involving secret meetings resulted in higher prices for insurers, the government and consumers, the lawsuit claims.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Humana has brought a lawsuit against 37 pharmaceutical companies including Novartis, Mylan and Teva, alleging price fixing for numerous generic drugs.

The conspiracy increased the profits of the drug makers and others working with them at the expense of consumers, the government and private payers such as Humana, the lawsuit said.

Humana wants to recover damages it said it incurred from overcharges for certain widely-used generics, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in federal court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania.

Humana said the conspiracy is far-reaching among the drug makers to manipulate markets and obstruct generic competition. They agreed to fix, increase, stabilize and/or maintain the price of the drugs specified, along with other drugs, the court document said.

Humana accuses the pharmaceutical companies of secret meetings and communications at public and private events such as trade association meetings held by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and others.

Humana's allegations are based on personal knowledge and information made public during ongoing government investigations, the insurer said.

The pricing fixing is also under investigation by federal and state authorities, the lawsuit said.

The Attorneys General of 47 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have filed a civil enforcement action against most of the named defendants, alleging agreements to fix 15 drug prices, the lawsuit said.

The Department of Justice has convened a grand jury to investigate a number of the defendants for price increases ranging from 100 percent to 400, 2,600 and 8,000 percent, Humana said.

The price increases are consistent with Medicare Part D price increases found by the Government Accountability Office for many of the subject drugs.

Among the drugs for which GAO identified "extraordinary price increases" -- defined as a price increase of 100 percent or more -- between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2015, are, according to Humana, Amitriptyline, an antidepressant; Baclofen, a muscle relaxant and anti-spastic agent; Benazepril, an ACE inhibitor to treat hypertension; Clobetasol, a steroid and anti-inflammatory agent;  Clomipramine, an antidepressant for obsessive compulsive disorder; Digoxin, used to treat heart failure and atrial fibrillation; Divalproex for seizure disorders; Doxycycline (in Hyclate form) an antibiotic; Leflunomide for rheumatoid arthritis; Levothyroxine, a thyroid drug to treat hypothyroidism; Lidocaine, an anesthetic;  Nystatin, an antifungal for skin infections; Pravastatin to lower cholesterol; Propranolol, a beta blocker to treat hypertension; Ursodiol, to decrease the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver; and Verapamil, to treat hypertension, angina and certain heart rhythm disorders.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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