Jim "Buddy" Caldwell, the state's new attorney general, withdrew the multi-million-dollar antitrust lawsuit against the biotech, which his predecessor filed on his final day in office last January, theAssociated Press reports.
Last Friday, however, a notice filed in US District Court said the new AG dismissed the case "without prejudice." Allen Usry, a private lawyer representing Caldwell's office, tells the AP that the AG is watching similar cases against Amgen and reserves the right to re-file the suit. Back in February, Caldwell (pictured to the left) told the AP he inherited some "curious" cases that former AG Charles Foti filed as he left office, but wouldn't elaborate.
Foti's suit against Amgen accused the biotech of trying to monopolize the market for drugs sold to oncology clinics. The suit claimed Amgen engages in illegal pricing practices that penalize clinics if they fail to purchase significant volumes of its Aranesp med that fights anemia caused by chemotherapy.
However, Foti hired several private lawyers who had contributed to his failed re-election campaign to sue Amgen over the alleged pricing scheme. Four laywers from the Dugan Law Firm and the Murray Law Firm, both in New Orleans, are listed as plaintiffs attorneys in the case. The Dugan firm donated $5,000 to Foti's re-election campaign last year, while a Murray lawyer contributed $5,000, records show.
In a letter dated Jan. 11, Foti authorized attorney James R. Dugan II to represent the state in the Amgen case without guarantee of payment. The letter doesn't specify how the private lawyers could be paid for working on the case. The same attorneys who represented the state in the case against Amgen also joined Foti in suing some of the nation's largest insurers over their handling of policyholder claims after Hurricane Katrina.
In court papers, Amgen lawyers claimed Foti's suit was a "mirror image" of federal cases pending in New Jersey. An Amgen spokeswoman tells the Ap that the biotech is, of course, pleased Caldwell has dismissed the case, and the allegation that Amgen tries to stifle competition. "To the contrary," she says, "Amgen is actually the firm that brought competition into the marketplace" by introducing a new drug to compete with one already for sale.