(CN) – AstraZeneca unsuccessfully appealed a district court’s ruling that the drug maker fixed prices for the hormone therapy Zoladex.
U.S. District Judge Patti Saris found that AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical companies had violated antitrust laws by publishing false and inflated average wholesale prices, which are used to set reimbursement rates.
Insurers, the government and patients paid more for drugs than it cost doctors to supply them, creating a windfall for drug makers and doctors, Saris ruled.
AstraZeneca challenged various aspects of the judge’s reasoning and findings, but none of the arguments stuck in the Boston-based 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal.
“At bottom, the district court’s findings are justified,” Judge Howard wrote in the 98-page ruling. “The evidence supported a finding that AstraZeneca unfairly and deceptively published an artificial average wholesale price for Zoladex that gave no indication of the actual, substantial discounts and rebates it was providing in the market.
“This conduct … was contrary to Congress’s intent in designing the Medicare program,” Howard continued, “and it clearly transgressed the expectations of the marketplace.”
Howard said the scheme “exploited consumers and the third-party payers, who did not understand the systematic and extreme nature of the spreads until it was too late.”