* State attorney general probes price-fixing complaints
* Probe comes amid shortages of seasonal flu vaccine
* State investigating vaccine makers and distributors
(Updates with details)
By Ros Krasny
BOSTON, Nov 2 The state of Connecticut's top
prosecutor said on Monday he is investigating complaints of
price fixing by companies that make and distribute the seasonal
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office has
received reports that the seasonal flu vaccine is being offered
at many times the normal price, and of distributors and
manufacturers reneging on previously negotiated agreements.
Seasonal flu vaccine (SFV) is in short supply, in part
because distribution has swung to the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
Blumenthal said he has written to 13 manufacturers and
distributors of the seasonal flu vaccine, requesting details on
price, supply levels and distribution methods. He is seeking a
response by Nov. 15.
"Be advised that I will aggressively pursue enforcement
action against any company or individual that is taking
advantage of the current SFV shortage to engage in price
gouging or other unethical and abusive business practices to
the detriment of Connecticut healthcare providers and their
families," Blumenthal wrote in a letter to ABO Pharmaceuticals,
a San Diego-based distributor.
Blumenthal said letters requesting information have been
sent to manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L), AstraZeneca
Plc (AZN.L), Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA), and CSL Limited (CSL.AX)
of Australia. They were also sent to nine distributors.
Donna Cary, a spokeswoman for Sanofi, said the company had
not yet received the inquiry from the attorney general.
"Until we have received the inquiry it is difficult for us
to comment upon it," she said.
Sheila Burke, a spokeswoman for CSL, said her company had
no record of being contacted by the attorney general.
Representatives for Glaxo and AstraZeneca, which produces a
nasal flu vaccine through its MedImmune unit, were not
immediately available for comment.
(Additional reporting by Toni Clarke; Editing by Eric