JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – As Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood recovers more than $33 million from a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling finding pharmaceutical manufacturer Watson Inc. defrauded the state's Medicaid program through price manipulation, recently proposed state legislation could halt the prosecutorial powers of the office of the attorney general from further recoveries.
The attorney general's Jan. 29 announcement of the $33 million recovery comes as new legislation, House Bill 1238, recently passed committee. The bill would allow federal regulated companies such as Watson to claim it does not fall under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, which the attorney general used to argue the Watson case.
“Should HB 1238 pass, it would be devastating to the protection of Mississippians,” Hood said in a news release. “Much of the successes in our office have been protecting consumers from corporate wrongdoers, and the people of Mississippi deserve more than their lawmakers stripping those protections.”
The case against Watson is one of dozens against several drug companies who allegedly inflated drug prices in some cases as much as 1,000 percent. A trial court found that Watson's fraud cost Mississippi tax payers more than $7 million and awarded the state statutory and punitive damages totaling $33,408,546.72.
“We have recovered over $200 million from drug companies in our Average Wholesale Price litigation for overcharges and penalties on drugs paid for by our Department of Medicaid," Hood said in a statement. "Of all the companies we have done battle with, Watson Pharmaceuticals is one of the worst offenders."