Humana sues drugmakers over price fixing scheme

Health insurance giant Humana has filed suit against dozens of drug companies allegedly they conspired together to fix prices of generic drugs like antidepressants, muscle relaxers and skin treatments. Similar alleged conduct by drugmakers is also under investigation around the country.

The complaint, filed in Pennsylvania, seeks to recover damages for the overcharges, which impacted the company, consumers and government, according to court documents. Humana’s case takes aim at drug companies Actavis Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical, Mylan and more.

“Defendants engaged in a broad, overarching conspiracy to inflate the prices of their generic drug portfolios en masse,” Humana’s lawsuit alleges. “They implemented this conspiracy by fixing prices of individual drugs among the co-conspirators that manufactured competing generic versions.”

The lawsuit also comes as the Trump administration has taken steps to attempt to lower prices for prescription and generic drugs with several recent proposals and blueprints.

Humana alleges the drugs companies conspired to manipulate markets and obstruct competition for generic drug pricing, including fixing and raising prices. The scheme was orchestrated through “secret communications and meetings” that were sometimes held at trade association meetings, the lawsuit alleges.

Most of the defendants listed in the lawsuit are facing civil enforcement actions for price fixing of 15 drugs by the attorneys general of 47 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, Humana maintains.

Two executives of one major drugmaker, Heritage Pharmaceuticals, which is named as a defendant in Humana’s case, have already pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to fix the prices of Doxycycline, an antibiotic and skin treatment, and Glyburide, an anti-diabetic medicine.

Several of the drugs named in the case saw three- and four-digit price increases as a result of the scheme.

Humana cited “personal knowledge” of the matters in the complaint, as well as public information brought to light in ongoing investigations of the drug companies.

Humana, which hit its highest share price ever this summer, recently closed two major deals to acquire a share in two post-acute care providers–Kindred Healthcare’s home health business, Kindred at Home, and hospice chain Curo Health Services.