November 2, 2009 / 9:14 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Connecticut probes seasonal flu vaccine pricing

* 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 (Reuters) - 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 flu vaccine.

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 Beech

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