Utah is one of 21 states suing the manufacturer of a new drug used to treat schizophrenia for what it says is the fixing of the price of the product at nearly $9,000 annually, too high for thousands of mentally ill Americans.
According to the complaint filed in New York Federal District Court Tuesday against Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corp. and Caremark Inc., German residents can obtain the same drug, clozapine, for as little as $866 a year.The reason is Sandoz, which holds the exclusive right to market clozapine in the United States, refuses to sell the drug unless the buyer also purchases medical services from a designated company to monitor possible side effects.
The complaint states that no other drug manufacturer in the United States puts such restrictions on the sale of drugs and that clozapine is available in Europe without the purchase of non-drug services.
Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam said clozapine, sold in the United States by Sandoz under the brand-name Clozaril, is one of the expensive drugs in the country and that taxpayers often pick up the bill.
"That means that unless the drug is made more easily available, only a fraction of the people for whom Clozaril might mean a new life will actually be treated," Van Dam said.
"Many of the patients who could be treated with Clozaril reside in state- owned and operated hospitals, or could realistically receive the drug only through state medical-assistance programs," he said.
The complaint seeks to stop the drug manufacturer from tying the sale of the drug to purchase of medical services, which include blood tests for a potentially fatal side effect.
The attorneys general also want Sandoz to divest itself of any interest in providing medical services for clozapine patients and void its contract with Caremark, now the exclusive provider of those services for U.S. patients.
The agreement is a violation of antitrust laws, according to the complaint, and has resulted in prices being "fixed, raised, maintained and stabilized."
The complaint states that the services are widely available elsewhere and that even with the services, patients must still be monitored by their own doctors for other potential problems.
About 1 percent of U.S. residents suffer from schizophrenia, a psychosis that is expensive to treat, resulting in many patients seeking government assistance to pay their medical costs.
Other states suing the companies are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.