AstraZeneca and a number of generic drug manufacturers face at least two Nexium class action lawsuits that allege the companies engaged in anticompetitive agreements to delay the release of generic versions of the blockbuster heartburn drug.
The complaints were filed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 Health and Welfare Fund (PDF), and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters Employee Benefits Fund (PDF) against AstraZeneca, Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories among others.
The electrical workers fund class action was filed last month in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Carpenters fund lawsuit was filed on November 9 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
According to the lawsuits, AstraZeneca paid off the generic drug manufacturers to keep them from releasing generic extended release versions of Nexium. The funds claim this action was anticompetitive, and resulted in consumers paying more for Nexium than they should have, since the generic version would have driven down prices to a fraction of the brand name cost.
The agreements, reached between AstraZeneca and various generic manufacturers between 2008 and 2011, delay the release of generic Nexium until May 27, 2014. The lawsuits seek class action status to include anyone who has had to buy Nexium since April 14, 2008.
Nexium is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States, approved for treatment of acid reflux and other stomach disorders. It is part of a class of medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which also includes Prevacid, Protonix, and Prilosec. However, Nexium is the most popular of the class, with more than $6 billion in annual sales.
AstraZeneca already faces more than 1,000 product liability lawsuits involving the popular drug, alleging that the drug maker has failed to adequately warn about the risk of bone fractures, osteoporosis and other bone problems caused by side effects of Nexium.
Later this month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear oral arguments over whether the federal Nexium injury lawsuits should be consolidated as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, for pretrial proceedings.