Iowa is among the 18 states which have filed a lawsuit against two drug companies, charging the firms conspired to keep a cheaper generic version of a name brand prescription drug off the market. Bob Brammer, a spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, says the drug in question is called "TriCor" and its prescribed to patients who have problems with their cholesterol. "Abbott Laboratories had about a billion dollars in sales of this particular cholesterol drug last year," Brammer says.
The attorneys general accuse Abbott Laboratories along with its French partner Fournier of violating antitrust laws. "What happens is when drug companies have a brand name drug for a while they have exclusive marketing, but generally patents expire, new generic drugs come on that compete and at a much lower price — sometimes 50 to 80 percent less than the branded drugs," Brammer says. "And we’ve had a number of cases over the years where we think that drug companies that had the branded drugs took illegal action to block the generic drugs from coming on board."
According to Brammer, that’s exactly what happened in this case as the lawsuit alleges the companies made minor changes in the drug, claiming those changes couldn’t be imitated. In addition, the lawsuit charges the companies filed "phony" patent lawsuits against companies trying to develop a generic equivalent to TriCor. "That kind of thing that we think was jimmying the system where it was unfair to other competitors and really unfair to consumers and unfair to the state because the state sometimes has to pay for people’s drugs," Brammer says.
TriCor was first marketed in the U.S. in 1998. TriCor’s creators filed 10 lawsuits against companies trying to develop the generic equivalent of TriCor, lawsuits the attorneys general call "groundless."