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For Immediate Release
June 4, 2002
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357

STATES SUE MAKER OF BREAST CANCER DRUG
SUIT FILED TO PROTECT PATIENTS, STATE DOLLARS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the filing of an antitrust lawsuit charging that pharmaceutical manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb, Inc. monopolized the market to maximize profits from the sale of the cancer fighting drug, Taxol®. Maryland, Ohio and Florida are leading a group of 32 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the multistate action that accuses Bristol of acting illegally to keep the cheaper, generic version of Taxol® off the market. As a result, cancer patients and others were forced to pay significantly higher prices for the life-saving drug.

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration gave Bristol five years of exclusive marketing rights for Taxol®. Paclitaxel, the pharmaceutical ingredient in Taxol® was initially discovered by the National Cancer Institute, and was developed and tested by the NCI at taxpayer expense. Paclitaxel is used in the treatment of ovarian, breast, and a variety of other cancers. In 1993, the company told a congressional committee that paclitaxel was not patentable, and that "near-term generic competition for Taxol® is a certainty".

Today’s lawsuit alleges that Bristol knowingly manipulated the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office process by fraudulently securing patents that had no legal validity. These actions prevented generic drug manufacturers from entering the marketplace until 2000. As a result, hospitals, cancer patients, and states were forced to pay nearly a third more for Taxol® treatments.

Bristol’s sales of Taxol® have totaled at least $5.4 billion since 1998. A standard course of treatment using the name brand drug can cost from $6,000 to $10,000 per patient.

In recent years, Attorneys General throughout the country have individually or collectively taken action against illegal marketplace manipulation, improper patent monopolization, and wholesale price fixing, which all resulted in higher prices for consumers. Recently, a number of the Attorneys General joined together to form a Pharmaceutical Pricing Task Force that will seek to monitor the broad range of issues regarding pharmaceutical pricing and will help with current and future lawsuits.

Today’s action was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. Maryland filed the action with: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Bristol's sales of Taxol (in millions) by year beginning in 1998:

  Total Domestic
1998 1,206 785
1999 1,481 935
2000 1,592 991
2001 1,197 545

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