Users of anti-anxiety drug likely eligible for partial refunds.
DES MOINES. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller launched an effort today to encourage Iowans who took the anti-anxiety drug called "BuSpar" to file for partial refunds available as a result of a multi-state antitrust case. [Note: The DEADLINE for FILING a claim has been extended from Oct. 10 to DECEMBER 5, 2003]
"We alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb, the makers of BuSpar®, took illegal action to prevent the entry of generic competitors and maintain Bristol-Myers' monopoly over the sale of BuSpar in the U.S.," Miller said. "That harmed consumers because drug prices usually drop significantly when generic drugs come on the market. This case could result in refunds for many Iowans."
Miller encouraged consumers to take three steps if they purchased BuSpar between January 1, 1998, and January 31, 2003: "Go to the settlement web site or call the toll-free number for claim forms or more information, contact your pharmacist for proof of purchases, and file a claim before the deadline," Miller advised.
The toll-free number for the claims administrator is 1-800-678-9587. The administrator's web site is www.busparsettlement.com. Consumers also may write to the administrator at: BuSpar Class Action, PO Box 1682, Faribault MN 55021-1682.
Miller was joined at a news conference by Jerry Karbeling of the Iowa Pharmacy Association. "Iowa pharmacists have been extraordinarily helpful to their patients in assembling records and recovering money in prescription drug overcharge cases," Miller said. "Pharmacists have helped Iowans recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in previous cases, and they will be crucial in this case and others coming up."
Settlement of the antitrust case, which was approved recently by the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York, provides about $41.7 million to reimburse consumers. Miller said Iowans could be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds and perhaps $2-300 apiece in some cases. Refunds will vary according to people's insurance reimbursement situations.
Miller said a nationwide notification effort was launched today to alert BuSpar consumers about the settlement, including notices in magazines and newspapers.
BuSpar is Bristol-Myers Squibb's brand-name prescription medication used to treat patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately four million Americans suffer from GAD each year. BuSpar also is used to treat other anxiety disorders, as well as Alzheimer's Disease.
Miller emphasized that the claims process will safeguard people's prescription purchase history and personal information. Information will only be used for evaluating and paying claims and will not be disclosed to any other persons. After refunds have been paid and the settlement is complete the claims administrator will destroy information received from pharmacies.
Miller said public agencies also were harmed by the alleged illegal practices, and that the State of Iowa will receive significant monies under the settlement as compensation for damages. It is contemplated that more than $50 million will be set aside for agencies of the States.
"Thwarting the advent of generic drugs illegally harms both consumers and taxpayers, who often pay for prescription drugs subsidized or paid-for by government programs," Miller said.
The States alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb engaged in fraud to unlawfully maintain its monopoly and exclusive hold on the market for BuSpar. States alleged the company made false statements to the Food & Drug Administration about its patents in an effort to stop competitors from selling cheaper generic alternatives and unlawfully maintain its monopoly.
The settlement agreement also contains strong injunctive relief to prevent the alleged illegal activity by Bristol-Myers named in the complaint, including taking illegal action to delay entry of generic drugs and making false statements or misrepresentations to the FDA. The company also is forbidden to enter into agreements with generic drug manufacturers to settle patent infringement suits, if the result of such an agreement would potentially adversely affect competition.
Drug costs usually drop significantly when generic drugs come on the market. According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office in 1998, the average generic prescription price can be less than half of the brand name price.
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