Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jun 4 2002

SEATTLE -Attorney General Christine Gregoire today accused Bristol-Myers, Squibb Co. -- manufacturer of the cancer drug Taxol -- of abusing federal patent law in order to keep a cheaper, generic competitor off the market.

To view the complaint, click here.
Washington, 28 other states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking unspecified damages and restitution. It is the second recent case filed by the Attorney General's Office against Bristol-Myers, Squibb, and the latest in a series of legal actions by the Attorney General aimed at fighting illegally inflated drug prices.

Taxol, which costs as much as $1,700 a dose, is widely used to battle breast, ovarian, lung and other cancers. A standard course of treatment can cost from $6,000 to $10,000 per patient.

"All too often, drug companies are violating our nation's patent laws to increase their profit margins," Gregoire said. "Their behavior keeps the market from functioning properly and ultimately hurts all consumers through increased health care costs."
In the case involving Taxol, the Attorney General's Antitrust Division estimates that Washington state agencies - such as the University of Washington Medical Center, the state-funded Uniform Medical Plan and Medicaid - have paid more for the drug than they would have under competitive circumstances.

According to the lawsuit, Bristol-Myers, Squibb sought to extend its existing exclusive five-year right to manufacture and market the drug. The company, attorneys say, fraudulently registered a new patent with the federal Food and Drug Administration, which then triggered a federal law that delays FDA approval of generic versions for at least 30 months.

As a result, the company unfairly extended its exclusive right to sell the drug at a non-competitive price from December 1997 until October 2000, when generic alternatives to Taxol were allowed on the market.

The case involving Taxol is just the latest case in which Gregoire's office has attacked alleged illegal price inflation in the pharmaceutical industry.

In one case that has settled, the Attorney General's Office accused one drug maker of unfairly controlling the ingredients in widely used anti-anxiety medications. At least 2,650 Washington consumers who filed claims will share $548,267 in restitution as a result of that settlement.

In two other pending cases, two drug manufacturers are accused of conspiring to keep a generic version of a widely prescribed heart medication off the market, and Bristol-Myers, Squibb is accused of patent law manipulation to keep a generic version of BuSpar, an anti-anxiety medication, off the market.