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Utah lawmakers get updated on drug price lawsuits

Prescription bottles and pills on a counter. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah is one of several states suing pharmaceutical companies in federal court for alleged price fixing of generic drugs, and it seems those lawsuits will be allowed to go forward for now.

Utah Deputy Attorney General David Sonnenreich updated lawmakers at the State Capitol on Thursday while accusing the companies of, “the biggest price fixing conspiracy case in history.”

Sonnenreich told lawmakers that between July 2013 and January 2015, pharmaceutical giant Teva colluded with competitors to raise prices and reduce the supply of at least 86 drugs. Some of those prices subsequently increased over 1,000%.

Sonnenreich says employees communicated with each other via text and email about their plans.

“The employees used key phrases to indicate they were discussing this conspiracy. Things like, ‘Playing nice in the sandbox’…meaning you weren’t going to overstate your share by more than you should,” Sonnenreich says.

And prosecutors allege these meetings were not obvious to outsiders.

“The marketing people in the companies regularly met together in a variety of forms. It could be conferences, social events like ‘Girls Nights Out’…where they would discuss new generic drugs that their companies were about to launch and how to achieve price increases for those drugs,” Sonnenreich claims.

The pharmaceutical companies have vigorously denied the allegations, with some pointing out that prices for generic drugs in the United States have gone down in recent years.

There is no date for when any of the cases will go to trial.