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Attorney General Andy Beshear announces $40 million in settlements in two drug lawsuits

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced settlements in lawsuits against two drug companies Wednesday that are worth nearly $40 million.

“Oftentimes it takes years, sometimes it even takes almost a decade, to hold these large companies accountable for the harms they inflict on our families. Today, we have won two of those battles,” Beshear told a Capitol press conference where he addressed the settlements.

He announced a $17 million settlement was reached Tuesday with Bayer Corporation over two birth control drugs, Yasmin and Yaz, in a 2013 lawsuit that alleged the company misled Kentucky woman about the risks involved in using them.

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced $40 million worth of settlements with drug companies. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

“From 2007 to 2012, and again after 2015, Bayer failed to provide accurate marketing information and scientific evidence, that we allege confirmed that Yasmin and Yaz created a higher risk for blood clots than other similar contraceptives,” Beshear said. “These actions by Bayer put Kentucky women in harm’s way.”

He noted blood clots are serious and can cause heart attacks, strokes, damage to organs and even death.

Beshear says he pursued additional actions against Bayer “because the company was in violation of a 2007 consent judgment against Bayer, for deceptive marketing of its cholesterol-lowering drug Baycol. Bayer had agreed to a prohibition on making any false or misleading claims of their products. We believe we are the only state to have taken this additional legal action, and the only state to have secured a monetary settlement, in this action on Yaz and Yasmin.”

Bayer will pay the state’s investigation costs, litigation fees and other costs in the case, according to Beshear.

“The rest, approximately $10 million, will be available for the General Assembly to appropriate during the next budget session. I strongly encourage the legislature to use these funds to ensure affordable and accessible health care and to support public health for all Kentuckians.”

Beshear also announced his office will recover $22.7 million in Medicaid dollars after reaching an agreement with Reckitt Benckiser Group, a distributor of Suboxone over its improper marketing and promotion of the drug, used to reduce withdrawal symptoms of those addicted to opioids.

Allegations in that lawsuit claimed that from 2010 through 2014, Reckitt, directly or through its subsidiaries:

• Promoted the sale and use of Suboxone to physicians who were writing prescriptions to patients without any counseling or psychosocial support, such that the prescriptions were unsafe, ineffective and medically unnecessary.

• Promoted the sale or use of Suboxone sublingual film based on false and misleading claims that the film was less subject to abuse than other buprenorphine products and less susceptible to accidental pediatric exposure.

• Submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration in 2012, fraudulently claiming that it had discontinued manufacturing and selling the Suboxone sublingual tablet “due to safety concerns.”

• Took steps to fraudulently delay the entry of generic competition for various forms of Suboxone in order to improperly control pricing.

More than $5.3 million will be returned directly to Kentucky’s Medicaid program, with the remaining portion refunded to the federal Medicaid program, he said.

Beshear summed up the settlements by saying, “There’s only one reason these companies make false claims about their product: that they put their profits over the lives and health of our people.”

When asked about the status of his nine lawsuits against several opioid distributors in the wake of several companies offering a $260 million settlement with two counties in Ohio, Beshear said they are being kept apprised of the situation in the Cleveland case.

He added, “Because we filed our cases separately, it means we are going to have more leverage in looking at what they’re settlement may be, what the parameters may be, and determining if it’s fair to us. We have got to make sure we receive the funding that we’re entitled to, that we get the justice that we need for our families, and that we have enough for treatment, prevention and recovery, to make sure the next generation doesn’t face the same devastation that this one has.”

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