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3 pharmaceutical giants lose ruling on pricing

US District Judge Patti B. Saris ruled against pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca PLC, Schering-Plough Corp., and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in Boston yesterday, finding them guilty of engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices for their medication prices, according to the law firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.

The three companies were defendants in a suit that alleged they inflated the average wholesale prices they reported for certain drugs.

AstraZeneca, Schering-Plough, and Bristol-Myers were ordered to pay damages for part of the decision but the judge asked for more information before deciding on further restitution.

The companies wouldn't disclose financial terms of the settlement, while the law firm wasn't immediately available for comment.

The ruling affects patients who paid for certain prescription drugs from December 1997 to 2003.

Reached by telephone, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman said the company competed responsibly with respect to pricing its drugs and said the suit was "without merit." The company may appeal.

A Bristol-Myers Squibb spokeswoman also said the company intends to appeal the damages and maintained the company isn't responsible for the wholesale price reimbursement benchmark used by insurance companies, insisting its internal practices are fair and reasonable.

Schering-Plough wasn't immediately available for comment.

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