An Alabama jury returned a 78.4 million dollar verdict on Tuesday February 24, 2009, against the drug manufacturer Sandoz, a subsidiary of Novartis. The Alabama lawsuit was one of more than 70 lawsuits that have been brought on behalf of the state of Alabama against various drug manufacturers. The Alabama lawsuits center around Average Wholesale Prices (AVP) that drug manufacturers were posting that were much higher than the prices doctors and pharmacists were actually paying for the drugs. Essentially, the state of Alabama is claiming that these drug manufacturers were committing a fraud upon Alabama’s Medicaid program by having the state pay an average wholesale price for a drug that was actually being sold at a much cheaper rate.
This is the third large verdict the state of Alabama has obtained in these average wholesale price cases. In 2008, a jury returned a $215 million dollar verdict against drug manufacturer AstraZeneca and a second jury returned a $114 million dollar verdict against drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. These were two of the 20 largest jury verdicts of 2008.
As any Alabama lawyer can tell you, the real battle will now begin. Novartis will surely appeal this verdict to the Alabama Supreme Court, which has a history of overturning and throwing out large jury verdicts. This appeal will likely take a year to year and half, so whether the state of Alabama ever sees a penny out of this litigation is yet to be determined. However, its comforting to know that in today’s tough economic times that one corner stone of our society – our civil justice system – is still available to ensure a level playing field.