Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

TEXAS SUES MAKER OF BREAST CANCER DRUG

Suit Filed to Protect Patients, State Dollars

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today filed an antitrust lawsuit charging that pharmaceutical manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb, Inc. (Bristol) monopolized the market to maximize profits from the sale of the cancer-fighting drug, Taxol®.

In a multi-state action, a group of 29 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands accuse Bristol of acting illegally to keep the cheaper, generic version of Taxol® off the market. As a result, cancer patients and others were forced to pay significantly higher prices for the life-saving drug.

"It is deplorable that anyone would take advantage of those undergoing treatment for cancer," said Attorney General Cornyn. "The lawsuit filed today is intended to stop fraudulent pricing and to send the message to the pharmaceutical industry that we will not let companies take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens in order to boost their profits."

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Bristol five years of exclusive marketing rights for Taxol®. Paclitaxel, the actual pharmaceutical ingredient in Taxol® was initially discovered by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and was developed and tested by the NCI at taxpayer expense. Paclitaxel is used in the treatment of ovarian, breast and a variety of other cancers. In 1993 the company told a congressional committee that paclitaxel was not patentable, and that near-term generic competition for Taxol® is a certainty.

Today's lawsuit alleges that Bristol knowingly manipulated the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office process by fraudulently securing patents that had no legal validity. These actions prevented generic drug manufacturers from entering the marketplace until 2000. As a result, hospitals, cancer patients and states were forced to pay nearly a third more for Taxol® treatments.

Bristol's sales of Taxol® have totaled at least $5.4 billion since 1998. A standard course of treatment using the name brand drug can cost from $6,000 to $10,000 per patient.

In the last several years as pharmaceutical prices have skyrocketed, attorneys general throughout the country have individually or collectively taken action against illegal marketplace manipulation, improper patent monopolization and wholesale price fixing, all of which resulted in higher prices for consumers. Recently, Attorney General Cornyn joined a number of other attorneys general to form the Pharmaceutical Pricing Task Force, which seeks to monitor the broad range of issues regarding pharmaceutical pricing, and will help with current and future lawsuits.

Todays action was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties and monetary damages.

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