Alabama Asks Jury For $170M In Drug Trial
Tue, 02/24/2009 - 4:00am
By BOB JOHNSON Associated Press Writer MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An attorney for the state of Alabama asked a jury Monday to order generic drug manufacturer Sandoz to pay as much as $170 million because the state claims its Medicaid program paid too much for prescription drugs for more than a decade. The state's attorney, Jere Beasley, told jurors that Sandoz was arrogant in the way it reported drug prices and noted a company memo said: "Go forward and take the position of a Roman legion, be greedy and take no prisoners." An attorney for the Germany-based pharmaceutical said the company reported accurate prices and Sandoz saved the Alabama agency millions by providing less-expensive generic drugs. Attorney Tabor Novak said the memo was taken out of context and the reference to the Roman legion was simply meant as a metaphor to inspire workers. Novak said state officials did not understand the system used to determine prices and that generic drugs were much less expensive that brand name prescriptions. Sandoz is one of more than 70 prescription drug manufacturers being sued by Alabama Attorney General Troy King in 2005 over Medicaid drug prices dating back to 1991. Beasley asked jurors to "send a message" to Sandoz and other drug companies by rewarding the state about $28.4 million in compensatory damages and as much as five times that amount in punitive damages. "You can tell them that a jury in Montgomery, Ala., will not tolerate conduct like what you've seen in this case," Beasley said. Novak said the state should receive nothing. The jury deliberated for more than two hours before recessing until Tuesday morning. A year ago, an Alabama jury ordered the U.S. subsidiary of U.K. drug maker AstraZeneca to pay the state $215 million — $40 million in compensatory damages and $175 million in punitive damages. But Circuit Judge Charles Price reduced the combined amount to $160 million. In July, another Montgomery County jury found GlaxoSmithKline liable for nearly $81 million in compensatory damages and Novartis liable for about $33 million in similar damages. No punitive damages were awarded. Sandoz is a subsidiary of Novartis with U.S. headquarters in Princeton, N.J. AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have appealed their cases to the Alabama Supreme Court. The state has settled 10 of the lawsuits for nearly $35 million.