Millions in refunds go out to patients overcharged for drug, AG Cooper announces
Release date: 7/20/2004
Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today that refund checks are in the mail to more than 1,500 North Carolinians who were denied cheaper generic drugs by Bristol-Myers Squib.
“It’s wrong to deny patients more affordable medicines,” said Cooper. “Money is now going back to people who paid more than they should have because a drug company blocked access to generic alternatives.”
In March of 2003, North Carolina joined 34 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in an agreement to settle charges that Bristol-Myers Squibb deliberately kept generic equivalents to the widely prescribed antianxiety drug BuSpar off the market. The settlement was approved by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 1, 2004.
As a result of the settlement, consumers who purchased BuSpar between January 1, 1998 and January 31, 2003 and who submitted valid refund claims will receive average payments of $647 each. Bristol-Myers Squibb will also reimburse state and local health agencies that paid full price for BuSpar because no generic alternative was available.
Nationally, 57,474 consumers will recover more than $37 million. In North Carolina, 2,512 people will receive more than $1.5 million in refunds. Those refund checks were sent out to North Carolinians late yesterday.
The agreement settles allegations raised by Cooper and the other attorneys general that Bristol-Myers Squibb lied to government regulators in order to keep generic alternatives to BuSpar off the market for months. Investigators discovered that Bristol-Myers Squibb misled the Food and Drug Administration when applying for a new patent for BuSpar, telling the FDA that the patent protected the company's exclusive right to manufacture the drug and barred other manufactures from selling generic equivalents.
People who took the FDA-approved daily dose of BuSpar spent close to $100 each month for the brand-name drug. Consumers and the state of North Carolina would have been able to save money by purchasing a generic version of BuSpar, had it been available. Generics can save consumers 30 to 40 percent over brand-name prices. If several generic versions are available, competition can lower prices by 70 to 80 percent.
Under the agreement, Bristol-Myers Squibb is barred from re-listing the patent for BuSpar and for other drugs as a way to squash generic alternatives. Bristol-Myers Squibb is also forbidden from making false statements to the FDA and cannot enter into agreements with generic drug manufacturers if those agreements would adversely affect competition.
“The last thing patients need is to have an extra financial burden placed on them when they seek medical help,” Cooper said. “My office is dedicated to doing all it can to ensure that prescription drug costs are fair.”