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Connecticut’s attorney general is asking other states to join in investigating whether the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin blocked the development of cheaper generic alternatives. The planned antitrust probe Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced Tuesday came a day after a federal judge found that Stamford-based Purdue Pharma’s patents protecting its painkiller were invalid because the company deliberately misled the U.S. Patent Office. Purdue Pharma officials have said they will appeal the ruling. Separately Tuesday, Purdue Pharma was hit with a federal lawsuit in New Haven alleging violations of antitrust laws. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed by the Connecticut Citizen Action Group and others and alleges the company unlawfully obtained and enforced a monopoly for OxyContin through misrepresentations to the Patent Office, forcing users of the painkiller to pay higher prices. Blumenthal said Monday’s ruling offers strong evidence that the company may have deprived consumers of more affordable alternatives. “We will investigate aggressively and vigorously possible legal action seeking antitrust remedies and we’ve already begun organizing other states to do so with us,” Blumenthal said. “The court’s decision provides a very clear road map for claims based on its dramatic findings of anticompetitive and possibly deceptive conduct,” Blumenthal said. “There are few investigations that begin with such a powerful and compelling federal court finding about anticompetitive conduct as we seem to have here.” Howard Udell, chief legal officer for Purdue Pharma, said the company will cooperate with any investigation and will show Purdue Pharma did not mislead the patent office or engage in anti-competitive behavior. Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein would allow Endo to put its own version of OxyContin on the shelves. That could substantially affect Purdue, a privately held company whose revenue is largely derived from sales of OxyContin. Last year, about 7 million OxyContin prescriptions were written for about $1.27 billion in sales, Purdue Pharma said. OxyContin was hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of severe chronic pain when it was introduced in 1996. But the drug has become a problem in recent years after users discovered that crushing the time-release tablets and snorting or injecting the powder yields an immediate, heroin-like high. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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