Humana files suit against generic drug makers, alleges price fixing

Gavel with scales of justice in background
Humana is suing generic drug companies over price fixing. (William_Potter / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Humana filed suit Friday against more than a dozen generic drugmakers, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, alleging the companies engage in price fixing.

In the 610-page complaint, which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Humana says it wants to recover "egregious overcharges" it paid to cover certain common generic drugs. The insurer lists dozens of drugs in the complaint the prices of which it claims drug companies schemed to fix.

The price-fixing "conspiracy," Humana said in the suit, "infected the entire generic marketplace." Prices for some drugs increased by as much as 1,000%, the insurer said.

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Among some of the drugs listed in the suit are albuterol sulfate, which is used to treat asthma and bronchitis, and tamoxifen citrate, which is used to prevent and treat breast cancer. Both are listed among the World Health Organization's essential medicines.

Humana also listed bumetanide, a diuretic used to treat swelling as a result of heart failure, liver failure or kidney problems and warfarin sodium, an anticoagulant used to treat blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

RELATED: Feds almost ready to charge drugmakers—and executives—in generics price-fixing probe

Humana levels some of the largest accusations in the complaint at Teva, which by 2012 was engaging in "the most egregious and massive price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States," the insurer said.

Teva would select certain other competitors, and these drugmakers agreed to follow one another on price increases, Humana said.

"They leveraged the culture of cronyism in the generic drug industry to avoid price erosion, increase prices for targeted products, and maintain artificially inflated prices across their respective product portfolios without triggering a 'fight to the bottom' among competitors," Humana said.

At the peak of the scheme, between July 2013 and January 2015, Teva raised the price on "dozens" of generic drugs, many in collaboration with the other conspiring companies, Humana claims.

Pricing-fixing schemes like this are under investigation by both the Department of Justice and just about every state across the country. Humana noted. The insurer filed a similar, less extensive lawsuit in August.

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