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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mega-Drugstore Chain Says Plavix Users Gouged

CINCINNATI (TBD) -- CVS Pharmacy Inc., a drug-store chain with 6,200 outlets across the U.S., filed an amended complaint this week in a federal anti-trust lawsuit that contends the companies making Plavix manipulated the legal system to keep a low-cost generic version of the popular heart and stroke prescription medication off the market.

Last year, the drug brought in nearly $3 billion in U.S. sales for its distributors, French drug-maker Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol Myers Squibb Inc. CVS said the two companies conspired to engage in ''sham litigation" aimed at hindering a Canadian firm, Apotex, from getting cheaper pills into stores. Plavix is the trade name for clopidogrel bisulfate, an agent that prevents bloodclotting, and is used to treat heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.

Both the FBI and Federal Trade Commission have been investigating the conduct of the drugmakers. CVS is represented by Theresa L. Groh, a lawyer with Murdock, Goldenberg, Schneider & Groh in Cincinnati. The price-fixing case (Southern District of Ohio, 1:06cv247) is pending before US. District Judge Michael H. Watson. It is in its early stages and the judge has not yet scheduled a trial date.

In the amended complaint, which was filed Friday, CVS lawyer Groh said the Plavix makers ''have engaged in a continuing horizontal agreement, combination or conspiracy, the purpose and effect of which has been to allocate to Sanofi and Brystol Myers Squibb the market for the sale of Plavix and its generic equivalents in the United States and to eliminate competition in the sale of Plavix and its equivalents in the United States."

Groh charcterized the drugmakers' actions as a monopoly. She asked for triple damages and a permanent injunction against the contested business practices.

This kind of conduct by drugmakers has been suspected for years. With the Democrats poised to take over Congress, look for hearings and investigations that will dig into the kind of allegations made in the CVS lawsuit. This is an important case because it shows that a major American corporation feels it was cheated by unethical business practices.

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