LAS VEGAS (CN) - The Southern Nevada Health District abused a federal program for vaccines for poor people by reselling the vaccines for profit - while Nevada ranked 45th in the nation for immunization rates for toddlers, according to a federal antitrust complaint.
The Vaccine Center claims the state agency abused the federal "340B Prime Vendor Program," which Congress intended to provide immunizations to the poor and indigent.
GlaxoSmithKline and Apexus also are named as defendants, but the state health district is portrayed as the primary culprit. Glaxo allegedly sold the vaccines and Apexus managed the federal program.
"SNHD operates a full-fledged commercial business that generates millions of dollars in revenue annually by competing against private clinics and doctors in markets for fee-based immunization services to the adult non-Medicaid population," the complaint states.
"Several private clinics and doctors who previously offered vaccination services in the relevant markets have gone out of business because SNHD undercut their prices. Other private clinics and doctors are currently struggling to compete against SNHD and possess a small market share. ...
"The Vaccine Center is the only significant remaining competitor to SNHD that possess a significant market share in the relevant markets."
The Vaccine Center claims the state agency bought vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline at "sharply reduced prices" and resold the vaccines to the public, in violation of federal law.
The state agency paid Glaxo $22.02 per dose for hepatitis A vaccine and resold them for $40 to $50, according to the complaint.
The Vaccine Center says it paid $62.34 per does for the vaccines and resold them for $84.
The Vaccine Center says it paid $90.09 per dose for Twinrix vaccine, for hepatitis A and B, and resold it for $139, while the SNHD got it for $50.26 and resold it for $70.
The state agency also got discounted vaccines for Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), HPV (human papillomavirus), yellow fever and typhoid at "substantially lower prices than the Vaccine Center," the complaint states.
"While almost all government agencies in Nevada ran large deficits in 2011 and had to cut back government services, SNHD reported a $35 million cash reserve in 2011," according to the complaint. "Simply put, SNHD has failed to live up to its mission and has breached the public trust. ...
"Because it is able to obtain vaccines from GSK at prices that are much lower than private clinics and doctors, SNHD has been able to crush private-sector competition, drive private medical clinics and doctors out of business, and monopolize markets for fee-based immunization services."
While doing this, The Vaccine Center says, Nevada last year ranked 45th in the nation for immunization rates of toddlers.
As of June 2011, the percentage of Clark County children younger than 3 who have received the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended schedule of vaccinations was down to 53.14 percent, according to the complaint.
The agency has lucrative contracts for vaccination services with several entities in Clark County, including the MGM Resorts Health Plan, Sands Expo and Convention Center, Silver Nugget Gaming, Boulder City and the Las Vegas Hilton, the lawsuit states.
The Vaccine Center seeks an injunction, damages, treble damages and punitive damages for price discrimination, conspiracy, monopolization and violation of Nevada's Unfair Trade Practice Act.
It is represented by J. Randall Jones with Kemp, Jones & Coulthard.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.