Twenty-nine states sue Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., alleging anticompetitive dealings

Thursday, December 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Twenty-nine states and Puerto Rico are suing Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., accusing the pharmaceutical company of illegally attempting to keep a generic alternative to one of its drugs off the market.

The suit was filed Wednesday. New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Bristol-Myers tried to extend its patent monopoly on BuSpar, an anti-anxiety drug that he said brought the company more than $700 million in sales last year.

BuSpar is the brand name of buspirone hydrochloride. In November 2000, Bristol-Myers listed an additional patent on BuSpar hours before the drug's patent protection was set to expire.

Generic manufacturer Mylan Laboratories sued Bristol-Myers, and in March a federal judge ordered the patent withdrawn.

An Internet search found that BuSpar sold at $84.31 for 60 10-milligram tablets. The generic equivalent sold for $63.23.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages for consumers and taxpayers. Damages could be in the millions, New York officials said, noting that between the time the company filed its additional patent and the judge's decision in March, the state's Medicaid program paid more than $7 million for BuSpar prescriptions.

``It is unacceptable for companies to conspire to keep generic drugs off the shelves so that they can line their own pockets,'' Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor said.

A call for comment to Bristol-Myers was not immediately returned Wednesday evening.

Besides New York, states involved are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Puerto Rico also joined the suit.

Shares of Bristol-Myers fell more than 6 percent to close at $50.45 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares fell another 11 cents in extended trading.