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REPORT CARD RESULTS
  • Public Citizen
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  • Drug Companies: Abbott Laboratories, Forest Laboratories and King Pharmaceuticals
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  • Drug Companies, Attorneys for the Synthroid Class Action Lawsuit

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    Drug Companies and Attorneys Involved in the Synthroid Class Action Lawsuit
    Grade: F


    In 1997, research results, funded by Synthroid's manufacturer, were finally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showing that Synthroid was not superior to its competitors. This research had been suppressed by the manufacturer for years before it was finally published. Two weeks after the publication of the research findings, class action lawsuits were filed for $8.5 billion against the manufacturer on behalf of patients who purchased Synthroid during the period of January 1, 1990 to August 1, 1997 -- the period during which study results were allegedly suppressed, and patients were paying more for a product that was by then known to be equal -- and not superior -- to its competitors.

    The research study published in JAMA estimated that the annual overpayment by patients totaled as much as $356 million a year. Estimated overpayment was $40 to $60 per year per patient -- or $264 to $408 per patient for each patient who was on Synthroid the full 6.5 years that results were not published. For the estimated five million patients taking Synthroid, that represented overpayment of $200 to $310 million per year, or a total of $1.3 to $2 billion over the 1990-1997. For the estimated 8 million patients, the overpayment estimate is $321 to $496 million per year overpayment, or a total of $2.1 to $3.2 billion in the 1990-1997 period.

    Surprisingly, however, in August 1997, a proposed settlement of the class action lawsuit was hastily agreed to, and this shockingly fast resolution agreed on payment of only $91 million, an amount which did not even represent even one year of the most conservative estimate of overpayment by the patients taking Synthroid.

    Of course, the class action lawyers -- including firm Allan Kanner & Associates -- stood to collect as much as a third of the settlement, or $30 million, so it was in their best interests to settle quickly. Very little marketing and advertising was actually done to make Synthroid users aware of the opportunity to participate in the lawsuit, and ultimately, only 800,000 patients found out about the suit and were able to file to be part of the class.

    Despite the quick settlement, the finalization of the case dragged on and on, and lawyers refused to provide any updated information to consumers – even failing to update the main webpage for the suit, http://www.synthroidclaims.com, for years -- until final approval took place in late 2003. Checks were finally shipped, and patients were supposed to get $106 if they had been on Synthroid since 1990, and $71 for those on the product since 1995. It's apparent, however, that there has been sloppy accounting, a possible effort to lower amounts paid to patients (and therefore inflate the legal fees), or both, because numerous patients who were on the drug since well before 1990 are reporting receiving only the $71 amount.

    All in all, patients paid too much, got far too little back, and still getting ripped off, and who actually got richer during the process? You guessed it…The manufacturer who overcharged in the first place, and then settled for pennies on the dollar to avoid paying back what they'd overcharged in the first place, and the law firms who rushed to settle so quickly, concerned about their own pocketbooks, and who could care less about the consumers. No surprise then, that the manufacturer and the lawyers all strike out with a failing grade of F.




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