PHARMACEUTICAL PRICING SUIT IS CERTIFIED AS CLASS ACTION

WASHINGTON -- Retail pharmacies won a procedural victory last month when a federal judge certified their litigation against major pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers over pricing practices as a class action suit.The case, which alleges price fixing, a violation of the federal Sherman Act, was filed on behalf of 60,000 pharmacies, said Michael Freed of Much, Shelist, Freed, Denenberg & Ament,

WASHINGTON -- Retail pharmacies won a procedural victory last month when a federal judge certified their litigation against major pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers over pricing practices as a class action suit.

The case, which alleges price fixing, a violation of the federal Sherman Act, was filed on behalf of 60,000 pharmacies, said Michael Freed of Much, Shelist, Freed, Denenberg & Ament, Chicago, co-lead counsel for the litigation, at a news conference held here. A trial date of Feb. 5, 1996 has been set for the class action suit, which names 25 pharmaceutical manufacturers and seven drug wholesalers as defendants.

Judge Charles Kocoras of the U.S. District Court in Chicago ruled that the suit could proceed as a class action on behalf of all community pharmacies that had purchased brand-name prescription drugs from any defendant manufacturer or wholesaler at any time since Oct. 15, 1989.

"We would want to see change in the industry," in how pharmaceuticals are priced to retail pharmacies, said Freed. He added that the suit also seeks damages for overpayment.

In addition to the class action suit, a number of other cases have been filed on behalf of individual pharmacies, including one representing four major supermarket pharmacy operators: Kroger Co., Cincinnati; Safeway, Oakland, Calif.; Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, and Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif. These cases, brought by individual operators, allege price discrimination in violation of the federal Robinson-Patman Act, in addition to price fixing.

All the cases filed under both federal statutes have been consolidated in Chicago for the purposes of discovery and obtaining depositions. The cases are expected to remain in Chicago until at least September. At that time, the suit filed by the supermarket operators may go back to Cincinnati, where it was originally filed, for trial, said Freed.

The conference at the National Press Club was sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Association of Retail Druggists.