Blumenthal probes flu drug prices

Nick Rees Dec. 1, 2009, 3:36pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has begun asking major pharmacies for details about their Tamiflu pricing policies as part of an investigation into complaints of erratic and excessive prices for the flu drug.

Blumenthal has asked CVS Caremark Corporation, Rite Aid Corporation and Walgreen Co., for immediate information, including details about their current prices and prices pre-dating the current H1N1 flu pandemic and ensuing Tamiflu shortage.

"Tamiflu price gouging gut punches families economically and medically," Blumenthal said.

"Price abuses threaten both public health and consumer pocketbooks as families struggle with economic hardship and inadequate insurance. Such conduct damages all consumers, but especially flu victims with no or limited prescription drug coverage, as well as children and others at higher risk.

"I will aggressively pursue enforcement action against any company or individual exploiting the current H1N1 flu pandemic or the Tamiflu shortage through price-gouging or other abusive practices."

Information has been received, Blumenthal said, that suggests some pharmacies have charged out-of-pocket prices for Tamiflu that are substantially increased - as much as $130 or more in some cases. Some retailers are also alleged to be purchasing capsules of higher-dosage Tamiflu from distributers and remarketing it as liquid-form lower dosages at greatly inflated prices.

"Feverish full-throttle greed is the only explanation and no justification for such price abuses," Blumenthal said. "Such abuses reflect a sickness -- an ethical ailment in need of treatment."

As part of his investigation into the pharmacies' practices, Blumenthal has requested information from the companies about current charges for Tamiflu in all dosages for both liquid and capsule form, charges for those same dosages and forms from three and six months ago as well as one year ago and an explanation for any increase in prices over the last year.

Blumenthal is also seeking information on whether the pharmacies are honoring original pricing on customer orders for Tamiflu and whether the pharmacies are honoring price quotes given to potential customers before the Tamiflu shortage.

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