Tuesday February 8, 2005 1:29 PM ET
Health - Reuters
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Illinois attorney general accused 48 major drug makers of fraud for overcharging government health care programs, joining several other U.S. states filing similar suits, authorities said on Tuesday.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan "alleges that the people of Illinois overpaid hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade or so," said her spokeswoman, Melissa Merz.
Some 19 other state attorneys general have filed similar suits accusing drug companies of publishing one price for drugs but often charging health providers a much lower price, allowing the providers to seek government compensation at the higher price and pocket the difference. The suit said the scheme boosted demand for drugs with the largest price spread.
"Drug companies have manipulated the average wholesale prices and used these prices to overcharge state and federal government programs, taxpayers and Medicare consumers," Madigan said in a statement.
The companies named in the suit are among the largest in the industry, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Merck and Johnson & Johnson .
Also named was Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories Inc., which responded that it "has consistently complied with all laws and regulations."
"Abbott has properly and lawfully provided information as required by the government and requested by the independent drug price reporting services. We have a strong defense and intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these claims," spokesman Jonathon Hamilton said.