J&J sues to block sales of 'dangerous' counterfeit HIV drugs

April 26 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) has filed a lawsuit against drug distributors and a pharmacy seeking to stop the sale of counterfeit versions of its HIV drugs, months after a similar case brought by Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD.O)

In a complaint filed April 7 and made public on Tuesday, J&J said it had learned of widespread counterfeiting through complaints from patients who received the wrong pills in their prescription bottle, and from the voluntary return of hundreds of bottles of counterfeit drugs from one of the defendants, distributor ProPharma Distribution LLC.

The company also said that distribution of counterfeit versions of its HIV pills had come to light through Gilead's lawsuit, filed in January. The drugs at issue include Symtuza, a multi-drug combination treatment, as well as Prezcobix, Prezista and Edurant.

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J&J said counterfeit bottles sometimes contained a different HIV drug than what was on the label, and in one case contained the powerful antipsychotic drug Seroquel.

In addition to ProPharma, the defendants are distributors Safe Chain Solutions LLC and Scripts Wholesale Inc and pharmacy operator I Care Pharmacy 14, as well as the business' individual owners. J&J is seeking a court order blocking further counterfeit sales and at least $25 million in damages from each defendant.

According to the lawsuit, I Care Pharmacy operated a brick-and-mortar store in New York City that abruptly shut down when a counterfeit sale was discovered.

J&J said it believed the pharmacy was connected to "a criminal counterfeiting ring that continues to actively dispense dangerous counterfeit HIV medication in New York City."

A lawyer for Scripts declined to comment. Lawyers for the other defendants could not immediately be reached.

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Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Brendan Pierson reports on product liability litigation and on all areas of health care law. He can be reached at brendan.pierson@thomsonreuters.com.