A new class action lawsuit claims that major pharmaceutical companies are conspiring to keep drug prices high by colluding with one another. The class action stems from an anti-trust lawsuit against major drug companies for the drug Lovenox, an anti-coagulant medication necessary for many heart patients. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses the issue of price gouging and collusion with Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions.

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*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Farron Cousins: Within the last few years, the issue of Big Pharma’s price gouging has finally become one that American citizens are paying attention to. Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough politicians paying attention to this issue, but at least consumers know what’s happening. But what they may not know is also happening is that sometimes these drug companies get together with one another and collude to make sure they keep their prices high by blocking generics from entering the market.

Joining me now to discuss this issue is Scott Hardy from topclassactions.com. Scott, top class actions had a great story recently on this, anticoagulant medication, Lovenox, what’s that all about? I mean, this is a very serious issue. It’s a popular medication. So what’s happening with this particular medication?

Scott Hardy: Well, what we’re seeing with the Lovenox class action and the antitrust essential class action with the price fixing is that this is a common drug that’s used. If you have deep vein thrombosis, you might get prescribed this drug. And deep internal thrombosis happens. So hundreds of thousands of people every day, all across America. It’s a very popular prescription drug to treat that.

And so what the drug manufacturer did was as the generic times, when a drug is going to actually become generic and get a whole lot cheaper, they colluded with the generic manufacturer or allegedly colluded with the generic manufacturer to keep another generic manufacturer off the market. So that way they could control how high priced, what the actual price will be for the one generic. And we see that a lot and what you’ll actually see are patent lawsuits that go back and forth.

So as a drug is coming off of the high priced only one retail price version of the drug and now you’ve got generic manufacturers coming out. You’ll have lawsuits that go back and forth from the original manufacturer talking about patent infringement. Or there might be a slight difference in the formulation. And essentially what happened is that the generic manufacturer worked with the name brand manufacturer and cut a deal with another generic manufacturer to keep that drug off the market. Making sure that the average consumer’s paying a lot more for the drug than they should have.

And this is not happening just for Lovenox and these anticoagulants, we’ve seen these class actions in these antitrust lawsuits get filed for drugs across the board. And so it’s good when we see a name brand manufacturer get hit and get caught for this collusion because all they’re trying to do, is charge you the average consumer more and put more money in their pockets. I mean we’re seeing that most pharmaceutical manufacturers now are spending more on their advertising budget than they’re actually spending on research and that’s disheartening to say the least.

But when they’re also trying to charge you and collude with other manufacturers to keep the price of your medication high when it’s already so expensive to get medication in the US, it’s just a sad state that we’re in for a medical system overall.

Farron Cousins: Exactly, and one of the things that they use to keep these generics off the market is a little scam they call pay to delay. They’ll actually sometimes, the bigger pharmaceutical companies, will offer money to the generic manufacturer to put off coming to market for a year or two. They’ll fully compensate them what they probably would have made off that drug, but instead generic gets their money, the name brand makes even more money because the generics not out there yet.

The whole system, you know from the regulatory agencies to the law makers, to the ceos and the shareholders. The whole system is rigged from the top down. Absolutely rigged. None of these companies ever fully get held accountable for putting out products that you know, kill or maim people. Products that cause cancer. Colluding in these antitrust cases. Yes, they pay out money for it, but none of them ever face actual legal consequences.

You don’t see the ceos of these companies being hauled off to prison as the average person would be, and so they keep doing it. These fines, these lawsuits, that’s the cost of doing business for them and they actually work those into their equations when they come up with ideas for new drugs and how to market it and all those things. We’ll pay x amount in lawsuits…

Scott Hardy: They sure do Farron, and that’s the thing is that as you said, this is the price of doing business. And this lawsuit is viewed as the price of doing business for these big name pharmaceutical companies. They know that yes, what they’re doing is probably illegal and they know that they shouldn’t be trying to keep these generic drugs off the market and make some more money off it. But they also know that if they can make an extra half a billion dollars by keeping a drug off the market, well why not go ahead and pay the fine as they may see it of $50 to $100, million dollars through the form of a class action settlement to make that profit upfront?

Yeah, they’re going to get dinged for it. Yet it may be illegal. But like you said, there’s no enforcement. No one’s going to jail. There’s no huge fines going against the corporation. They’re just having to pay a fraction of the profits that they’ve made by this allegedly illegal practice.

Farron Cousins: Absolutely. There is a link in the description to this video talking about the Lovenox case. If you’ve had this medication or if you know someone who has, I encourage all of you, please go check out that link and see what you need to do to get your money back. That is what this lawsuit is partially about. Trying to stop this antitrust, you know, companies paying each other to not bring the generics. We’re entitled to these generic options.

And when corporations are taking those choices away from us, taking those options away, everyone suffers except for the shareholders of those particular companies. So Scott Hardy with topclassactions.com. Thank you for telling us this story and thank you for doing all that you do to help consumers stay aware of what’s actually happening in this country. Thank you again for joining us.

Scott Hardy: Thank you Farron.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced