Holiday lawsuit roundup

Yesterday, we reported on a San Francisco federal court's decision to dismiss one lawsuit against Amgen. The suit involved alleged off-label uses of Aranesp and Epogen, Amgen's anemia medications, and the court said the plaintiffs would have to try reaching out to government regulators instead.

Today, Amgen is in the news again. It appears the company reached a settlement with Wisconsin's Justice Department. Amgen--along with Immunex, which it bought six years ago--will pay $1.7 million plus $300,000 in expenses and legal fees to the state for submitting false wholesale prices to Medicaid. The money will go back to Medicaid. Amgen is one of 36 drug companies the Wisconsin Justice Department has sued for inflated wholesale prices. Next, Judge Richard Neiss will oversee a trial in which the state is suing Pfizer's Pharmacia unit on February 2, 2009.

Bristol-Myers Squib also had its day in court. The company settled a suit with 50 state attorney generals and now will pay $1.1 million for violation of a 2003 antitrust agreement. Under the original 2003 agreement, BMS agreed to provide yearly compliance reports and notifications of patent-litigation settlements with generic competitors to the states. The first case involved its anticancer drug, Taxol, and BuSpar, a medication to treat anxiety. BMS had to pay $670 million in that lawsuit. Yesterday's announcement involved a settlement the company reached with generic competitor, Aptoex. That settlement involved Plavix, but undisclosed dealings with Apotex violated the BuSpar and Taxol court offers.

Last but certainly not least, Pfizer will pay $38 million after losing in a lawsuit in which a Bay Area medical research nonprofit alleged the drug giant stole trade secrets to develop its pain medication, Bextra. Now off the market due to heart risk concerns, the drug aimed primarily to treat acute arthritis pain.    

A California jury in Santa Clara County Superior Court heard the case, brought forth by the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation. Pfizer and the nonprofit could not come to an agreement regarding use of a database, so Pfizer allegedly made a deal with a foundation statistician and received data from the researcher without the group's approval. There were also accusations that Pfizer and the researcher destroyed evidence about the data theft.

Pfizer says it believes the conduct was "proper" and plans to appeal the case; however, there will also be a suit for punitive damages, which could mean Pfizer and the researcher will have to pay more than $120 million.

- read Forbes' Amgen story and get the Chicago Tribune's take
- see more on BMS at CNN Money and read the Pharmalot blog post
- find the Pfizer story at the San Francisco Chronicle and see the Pharmalot blog entry

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