Week Adjourned: 2.10.12

A weekly wrap up of the latest class action lawsuits and lawsuit settlements, for the week ending February 10, 2012

Top Class Actions

If you didn’t need Zantac before, you may need after reading this… Walgreens is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations the drugstore chain, in partnership with Par, a manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals, marketed generic versions of antacid Zantac and antidepressant Prozac in dosage forms that weren’t subject to private and governmental reimbursement limitations. “As a result of this unlawful conduct, Plaintiff and other third-party payors paid two to four times more than they would have had the prescriptions been filled as written,” the lawsuit claims.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) who filed the lawsuit, alleges in the Walgreens class action lawsuit that Walgreens and Par “engaged in at least two widespread schemes to overcharge insurance companies, self-insured employers and union health and welfare funds for the generic versions of Zantac, Prozac and other drugs.”

According to the lawsuit, “Walgreens purchased these dosage forms from Par—at a cost substantially higher than the widely prescribed dosage forms—and systematically and unlawfully filled its customers’ prescriptions with Par’s more expensive products, rather than the inexpensive dosage forms that were prescribed by physicians.”

Pharmacies cannot legally change a prescription without a physician’s express authorization; however, this class action lawsuit alleges Walgreens used expensive capsules manufactured by Par to fill prescriptions for the lower-priced tablets.

Top Settlements

For DES Daughters, Settled but not over… In a precedent-setting ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler has this week ordered 14 pharmaceutical companies to negotiate compensation for 53 women who brought a DES class action lawsuit against the drug companies. The women alleged their breast cancer was caused by their mothers’ use of an anti-miscarriage drug, taken decades ago, called Diethylstilbestrol, also called Stilboestrol or DES.

DES was a synthetic hormone given to six million women worldwide between the 1940s and the early 1970s to prevent miscarriage. The drug was taken off the market when studies showed serious Diethylstilbestrol side effects, including a link between DES and vaginal cancer–as well as a link between DES and breast cancer, in women exposed to the medication while in the womb.

Bowler’s decision, which will have far reaching consequences, came following expert testimony from the scientific community including the Chair of Harvard’s Department of Epidemiology. The testimony included facts supporting the women’s claims that prenatal exposure to DES substantially increased risk for breast cancer among “DES Daughters” over the age of 40. The data came from information collected by the National Cancer Institute DES Follow-Up Study, and shows that DES daughters over the age of 40 are roughly twice as likely to develop breast cancer as their counterparts who were not exposed to the drug in-utero.

Manufacturers of DES include Eli Lilly and Company and E. R. Squibbs & Sons, the predecessor to Bristol-Myers Squibb. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control an estimated 10 million women in the United States have been exposed to DES—including DES mothers, DES daughters, DES sons and DES grandchildren. Attorney’s representing the plaintiffs expect there may be many more women affected by DES who will come forward as a result of this ruling.

Now it’s time for JP Morgan Chase to write a check…as they have tentatively agreed to pay $110 million to settle an overdraft fees class-action lawsuit filed by customers who allege the bank charged excessive checking overdraft fees.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009 by Andrea Luquetta of Los Angeles, claimed JPMorgan engaged in “unfair, deceptive and unconscionable” assessment and collection of overdraft fees. Her complaint also refers to the practices of Washington Mutual, which JPMorgan bought in 2008.

Specifically, the lawsuit claimed that JP Morgan Chase processed its debit card transactions unfairly so it could maximize the overdraft fees customers paid, which, according to the lawsuit, was typically between $25 and $35 per overdraft. The lawsuit remains to be approved in court, and details of the settlement terms haven’t been made readily available yet, so watch this space for updates.

OK—they’re buying—that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

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