- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. was sued yesterday by 29 states that said the drug maker acted illegally to maintain its monopoly on the cancer-fighting drug Taxol and keep cheaper generic versions off the market.
The lawsuit claimed that Bristol-Myers fraudulently obtained patents that had no legal validity for Taxol, one of the most widely used treatments for breast and ovarian cancer.
Ohio was the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, which said the company's actions delayed generic versions of Taxol from entering the market by at least 30 months. That forced hospitals, cancer patients and states to pay almost 30 percent more for Taxol treatments, the lawsuit said.
Taxol treatments generally cost $6,000 to $10,000 per patient. The states are seeking unspecified damages.
"These marketplace practices have had a dramatic impact on the ability of people and health care systems to obtain affordable, effective drugs," said Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.
Taxol always had been an especially contentious issue for consumer groups because it was discovered by the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute, which licensed the drug to Bristol-Myers. First approved in 1992 as second-line therapy for advanced ovarian or breast cancer, Taxol now also is used against AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma and lung cancer.
Robert Laverty, a Bristol-Myers spokesman, said the states were merely joining ongoing litigation brought by generic drug makers.
"The actual events at issue are several years old and have been the subject of litigation for some time," Mr. Laverty said. "We will continue to deal with the issues raised by this new suit, as we have been doing with other litigation related to these matters."
The lawsuit said the company acknowledged in 1993 that the drug's active ingredient, a naturally occurring substance called paclitaxel, could not be patented.
However, the states claimed, Bristol-Myers then filed fraudulent applications with the Patent and Trademark Office and listed those invalid patents with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The lawsuit said Bristol-Myers withheld documents about Taxol from the patent process and misrepresented information about the drug, the lawsuit said.
Yesterday's lawsuit is the latest in a string of cases against Bristol-Myers.
, which also is facing sinking profits, clinical disappointments and botched biotechnology deals.
In December, 29 states and Puerto Rico accused Bristol-Myers of illegally extending its patent on the anti-anxiety drug BuSpar. A coalition of consumer groups is accusing the company of the same action. Meanwhile, Bristol-Myers is among several pharmaceutical companies accused of overcharging the government for drugs, according to lawsuits brought by numerous consumer groups and states.
Earlier this year, Bristol-Myers announced that 2002 earnings could be as much as 50 percent below last year's level because of excess inventory and generic competition. Last year, Bristol-Myers offered wholesalers discounts to spur sales which came back to haunt the company.
The company also announced this year that its much-anticipated blood-pressure drug, Vanlev, was no more effective than existing generic medicines.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration refused to accept an application to review Erbitux, a promising cancer drug. Bristol-Myers had agreed to pay up to $2 billion for 20 percent of Erbitux's manufacturer, ImClone Systems Inc., as well as a cut of the drug's sales. Bristol-Myers has written off $735 million of the investment.
The states that filed suit yesterday were: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Bristol-Myers' stock fell $1.18, or 4 percent, to $28.65 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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