U.S. states sue Teva, 19 other drug companies in price-fixing complaint

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - Forty-four U.S. states have filed a lawsuit accusing 20 drug companies including Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc of a sweeping scheme to inflate drug prices and stifle competition for more than 100 generic drugs, state prosecutors said on Saturday.

The complaint, filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, said the drug companies engaged in “numerous illegal conspiracies in order to unreasonably restrain trade, artificially inflate and manipulate prices and reduce competition,” according to state attorneys general.

The drugs included everything from tablets and capsules to creams and ointments to treat conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, epilepsy and more, they said. In some instances, the coordinated price increases were more 1,000 percent, the lawsuit said.

Representatives of Teva and Sandoz, another company named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Teva USA is a unit of Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

The lawsuit also names 15 individuals as defendants who it said carried out the schemes on a day-to-day basis.

“The level of corporate greed alleged in this multistate lawsuit is heartless and unconscionable,” Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said in a statement.

The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties and actions by the court to restore competition to the generic drug market. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington Additional reporting by Ishita Palli in Bengaluru and Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Matthew Lewis)