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A slew of U.S. pharmaceutical companies will be named as defendants in a lawsuit accusing drug makers of bilking California taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars by inflating drug prices, state officials said Wednesday. As many as three dozen companies will be added to a lawsuit filed in 2003 by Attorney General Bill Lockyer against Abbott Laboratories Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, said Teresa Schilling, a spokeswoman for Lockyer. In that case, the state accused the two companies of reporting false prices that California then used to set reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program for low-income people. Abbott and Wyeth have denied any wrongdoing. That suit has since been combined with similar litigation from other states and is pending in U.S. District Court in Boston, Schilling said. Lockyer decided to expand the lawsuit based on findings by state investigators. He has scheduled a Thursday news conference to disclose which other drug companies would be named in an amended complaint. “We ended up devoting more and more resources to this investigation as it became clear how big the problem was,” Schilling said. In the original complaint, Lockyer claimed Abbott, headquartered in suburban Chicago, and Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth, inflated some drug prices by about 1,000 percent. In one example cited in the suit, the state claimed that in 1996, Abbot reported that a gram dose of one antibiotic cost more than $55 when the actual coast was about $6. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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