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Twenty-nine states sued Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. on Tuesday, accusing the maker of the cancer drug Taxol of fraudulently keeping less-expensive generic versions off the market. The lawsuit alleged that the pharmaceutical company obtained patents for Taxol under false pretenses and used those patents to delay generic versions from coming on to the market by at least 2 1/2 years. Generic versions were first introduced last year. The delay forced hospitals, cancer patients and states to pay almost 30 percent more for the medicine, which is widely used to fight breast and ovarian cancer, the lawsuit said. Taxol treatments generally cost $6,000 to $10,000 per patient. The states, led by Ohio, are seeking unspecified damages. “These marketplace practices have had a dramatic impact on the ability of people and health care systems to obtain affordable, effective drugs,” said Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery. Taxol is derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree and was discovered by the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute, which licensed the drug to Bristol-Myers. First approved in 1992 as second-line therapy for advanced ovarian or breast cancer, Taxol today is also used against AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma and lung cancer. Robert Laverty, a Bristol-Myers spokesman, said the states were merely joining litigation brought years ago by generic drug makers. He said only: “We will continue to deal with the issues raised by this new suit, as we have been doing with other litigation related to these matters.” The lawsuit said the company acknowledged in 1993 that the drug’s active ingredient, a naturally occurring substance called paclitaxel, could not be patented. However, Bristol-Myers filed patent applications. The company withheld documents about Taxol from the patent process and misrepresented information about the drug, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the District of Columbia. Joining Ohio as plaintiffs were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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