Consumers who paid for "Cardizem CD" or generic equivalents between 1998 and 2003 must file claims by Sept. 23, 2003.
DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller today urged high-blood-pressure patients who purchased "Cardizem CD" or its generic equivalents to obtain information and file claims for reimbursement for alleged overcharges by prescription drug companies.
Patients qualify if they paid all or part of the prescription costs for the drug at any time from January 1, 1998, through January 29, 2003, Miller said. Generic equivalents for Cardizem may be called Cartia XT, Diltiazem CD, or Diltiazem Hydrochloride Extended Release Capsules.
Miller said information packets and claim forms can be obtained toll-free at 1-800-372-2406. The process will be handled by a claims administrator. "The deadline is only six weeks off, so we encourage Iowans to check it out now," Miller said.
"Cardizem CD and its equivalents are widely-prescribed," Miller said. "I strongly encourage Iowans to obtain information and a claim form and submit it by the Sept. 23 deadline if they used the drug. We estimate there may be about 10,000 Iowa users of the drug, since there are about a million nationwide. If you aren't sure if you use Cardizem CD, ask your doctor or pharmacist, and ask your pharmacist to help you with your usage and payment record."
Jerry Karbeling, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs for the Iowa Pharmacy Association and owner of Big Creek Pharmacy in Polk City, joined Miller at a news conference Wednesday. Miller said he hopes Iowans will take advantage of the opportunity, as they have in other refund situations. "The Pharmacy Association and pharmacists all over Iowa played a key role in Iowa consumers being paid over $1.2 million last year in a separate case alleging an illegal drug monopolization scheme," he said. "Pharmacists did a superb job helping people get the right data."
The Cardizem refund process has been approved by the Federal District Court in Detroit, and the court will have to approve the final distribution plans after close of the filing period.
The States' claims administrator is doing a vigorous notification program, including ads in many national publications from Better Homes & Gardens to Reader's Digest and Parade.
The Antitrust Case:
Miller said Aventis Pharmaceuticals and the Andrx Corp. together are paying to compensate consumers, state agencies and insurance companies that overpaid for Cardizem CD or its generic equivalents. The multi-state lawsuit alleged that Hoechst (a pharmaceutical company later acquired by Aventis) illegally paid Andrx about $90 million so that Andrx would not bring a generic version of Cardizem CD to market for about a year.
"Generic drugs usually are cheaper," Miller said. "We alleged that delaying the generic version resulted in higher prices for consumers, medical insurance companies, and government agencies who help pay for prescription drugs. This is one way to help make it right, and we hope consumers will take advantage of the claim program." The two companies did not admit wrongdoing.
"Prescription drugs are a huge business -- and one of the largest expenses for consumers and taxpayers," Miller said. "Companies need to act fairly and lawfully. That protects consumers and taxpayers and makes a level playing field for all businesses."
"Cardizem CD" and equivalents:
The drug is used to treat patients with hypertension and angina (heart pains.) Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects as many as 50 million adult Americans, according to the American Heart Association. It killed nearly 45,000 Americans last year and contributed to another 118,000 deaths. The condition is highly treatable with drugs such as Cardizem CD, which belongs to a group of medications called calcium channel blockers (CCBs) that are widely used to treat hypertension. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association warned that even hypertension levels once considered mild can cause long-term damage, increasing the importance of treatment.
"Hypertension is a disease that is treatable but not curable. It is important for patients to understand that when they are diagnosed with high blood pressure, they are likely to be prescribed medications for the rest of their lives," said Dr. James Welsh, M.D., a family practice physician and Vice Chair of Georgetown University's Department of Family Medicine.
"The Cardizem settlement is great news for patients with high blood pressure," said Welsh. "Anything that allows patients to be more able to afford their medication and be more compliant with their medication may, in fact, save lives."
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