Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont Wins Key Motion in Suit Against Pharmaceutical Giant

Blue Cross Vermont building

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont intends to hold Teva accountable for its anticompetitive, unfair, manipulative, and deceptive actions to reap excessive profits from Copaxone.

Berlin, Vermont — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont recently won a key victory in its lawsuit against a multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer. On January 22, 2024, Chief Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford of the U.S. District Court for Vermont issued a ruling largely denying Teva Pharmaceutical’s motion to dismiss a putative class action brought by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and The Vermont Health Plan (together, Blue Cross VT). The ruling brings Blue Cross VT and the putative class one step closer to economic relief for harms flowing from the anticompetitive tactics of Teva Pharmaceuticals alleged in the lawsuit.

On August 22, 2022, Blue Cross VT filed suit against Teva, the manufacturer of Copaxone, a brand-name drug that alleviates the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Since 2008, Copaxone, an injectable drug approved by the FDA, has been the most prescribed drug to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). After learning of Teva’s years-long anticompetitive scheme to reap excessive profits from Copaxone, Blue Cross VT petitioned the court to recover the excessive costs we (and payers across the country) paid on behalf of members as a result of Teva’s illegal and anti-competitive conduct.

“Inflated prices of essential medications threaten Vermonters’ economic vitality, as the unchecked growth in drug prices puts undue upward pressure on premiums,” said Don George, President and CEO of Blue Cross VT.

The lawsuit alleges that Teva has unlawfully suppressed competition through blocking lower-cost generics from entering the market and causing employers and payers to pay for Copaxone at astonishingly high prices. Since 1997, Teva has raised the price of Copaxone 27 times, pushing the yearly cost of the drug faced by individuals, families, and payers from about $10,000 to over $70,000. In September 2020, the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a report concluding that Teva’s costs did not come close to justifying its prices.

In 2022, Teva filed a motion to dismiss this lawsuit. After hearing arguments from both parties, Chief Judge Crawford denied most of Teva’s motion in a detailed, 114-page opinion, allowing nearly all of Blue Cross VT’s claims to move forward.

“The court is satisfied that considered together, the allegations about Teva's bare-knuckled defense of its monopoly position may be sufficient to support a factual determination at trial that patients were subjected to coercion in choosing between the brand and the generic versions of the drug. The combination of pricing the new 40 mg drug below the legacy 20 mg version, threatening to withhold rebates for the 20 mg version, and pressing prescribers to exclude new generic entrants from their orders is sufficient to constitute a claim of coercive conduct.”

“Blue Cross VT intends to hold Teva accountable for its anticompetitive, unfair, manipulative, and deceptive actions to obtain excessive profits on a critical treatment for a debilitating disease,” said Rebecca Heintz, Vice President and General Counsel of Blue Cross VT.

Blue Cross VT is represented by Stris & Maher LLP and Keller Rohrback L.L.P.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is Vermont’s only local, not-for-profit health plan. For over 30 years, the company has been enhancing the health and well-being of the Vermonters we serve by offering innovative plans to individuals, older Vermonters, and businesses. Our employees are dedicated to developing new ways to support high-quality care, programs, and events that promote wellness. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is a licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.