Connecticut AG probes flu-vax pricing

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is either a thorn in pharma's side, or just extremely vocal about his dealings with drugmakers. So far this year, Blumenthal has negotiated an off-label marketing settlement with Eli Lilly, renegotiated a drug-ad deal with Bayer, settled Medicaid-fraud claims with four drugmakers, and called for an outright ban on drug company gifts to doctors.

Now, he's going after vaccine makers, raising allegations of possible price-gouging on this year's seasonal flu shot. The vaccination has run short, his office says, because shot makers have poured their resources into the pandemic flu shot instead. And with supplies scarce, the vaccines have been offered at several times the usual price, even as much a $100 a dose.

Blumenthal says folks have complained that distributors and manufacturers are demanding higher prices for the seasonal shots, even when price agreements were already in place. He's heard allegations that pharmacy chains and other major outlets might be first in line for the shots, leaving the Visiting Nurse Association--which has said that Novartis fell short on delivering its ordered vaccines--and other small outlets at a disadvantage.

"My office is vigorously and aggressively investigating allegations of price gouging and favoritism in distribution of seasonal flu vaccine," the AG said in a statement, which also boasts that he twisted a few arms at Novartis to get the VNA its full supply. Blumenthal has asked three drugmakers--GlaxoSmithKline; Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines arm of Sanofi-Aventis; and MedImmune, a unit of AstraZeneca--for details on their flu-vax pricing, distribution, refund policies, and so on. You can be sure he'll let the world know what he finds out.

- read the AG's release
- get the news from Reuters