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Independent Drugstores Take Price-Fixing Case to Court

October 18, 1994|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Drugstore owners fired the latest volley in an ongoing battle with pharmaceutical companies Monday by filing price-fixing lawsuits in 15 states.

The Georgia Pharmacy Assn., which is leading the nationwide effort by smaller independent drugstores, said 1,349 suits were filed in federal courts. The litigation follows about 400 suits filed in January and a class-action suit filed by major drugstore chains last year.

The suits contend that leading drug makers are charging independent drugstores and chains inordinately higher prices than those paid by hospitals, health maintenance organizations and mail-order sellers.

"Price discrimination by pharmaceutical manufacturers forces patients of community pharmacies . . . to pay the highest possible price for their medications," said Larry Braden, an Atlanta pharmacy owner and executive vice president of the Georgia group.

The 27 drug makers named as defendants include such major firms as Pfizer Inc., Glaxo Holdings, Ciba-Geigy Corp., SmithKline Beecham, Merck & Co., Upjohn Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Also named in the suit are three mail-order drug suppliers.

The suits were filed in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Drug manufacturers have denied fixing prices. "Discounting is a way of life in America," said Steve Berchem, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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