Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has sued a Florida-based pharmaceutical wholesaler that has charged unconscionably high prices for the flu vaccine and illegally conducted business in this state.
In the midst of a nationwide flu vaccine shortage, Meds-Stat inflated vaccine prices as high as $900 per vial more than 10 times the standard market value. The unethical and oppressive pricing potentially exposed vulnerable Connecticut citizens to significant health and safety risks. Blumenthal's lawsuit also alleges that Meds-Stat illegally sold or offered to sell the flu vaccine in Connecticut without obtaining a certificate of authority to do business.
The attorney general's lawsuit, brought on behalf of Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Edwin R. Rodriguez, seeks civil penalties, restitution and the disgorgement of all revenues, profits and other gains that Meds-Stat reaped through its CUTPA violations.
"As vicious as the flu virus is the human virus of greed exploiting it huge price hikes, putting our most vulnerable citizens at even greater risk," Blumenthal said. "This lawsuit is a shot in the arm strong medicine and a simple message for anyone profiteering or price gouging in a public health emergency. Unconscionable and unscrupulous prices for a potentially lifesaving vaccine cannot be tolerated. Incredibly, in just a few days, Meds-Stat raised prices from $90 to $900 per vial, a 10fold or 1,000 percent increase and well above the market standard. Need, not wealth, should determine access to healthcare. Our investigation is continuing, and we will take additional action as appropriate."
"It's outrageous that anyone would take advantage of a potential public health crises to fill their pockets with extra profit," Consumer Protection Commissioner Edwin R. Rodriguez said. "My department will work closely with the governor's office, the attorney general and the chief state's attorney, and take every legal action at our disposal to do away with such disgraceful acts of greed."
In October, one of the two primary flu vaccine suppliers was forced to shutdown, significantly reducing about half of the vaccine supply in the United States. This inadequate supply has been deemed insufficient to vaccinate those citizens who are at greatest risk from serious complications from the flu citizens 65 years of age and older, children between six and 23 months of age, and citizens who suffer certain chronic disorders.
Prior to this significant supply disruption, the price of flu vaccine for the 2004-05 season in Connecticut was about $69 to $80 per vial (each vial containing 10 doses). Meds-Stat was selling the vaccine for between $70 and $90 per vial prior to the shortage.
On Oct. 5, on the day Chiron formally notified government authorities of its Liverpool plant's problems, Meds-Stat began charging $600 per vial, and then on Oct. 8, further inflated its prices to as much as $900 per vial.
Source: Connecticut Attorney General