BOSTON - At least 43 states filed a lawsuit against 20 pharmaceutical companies alleging that the nation's largest drug manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate and manipulate prices for more than 100 different generic drugs.
The more than 500-page suit was filed in federal court in Connecticut on Friday. Connecticut is taking the lead in the probe, while the state's Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said investigators obtained evidence implicating the 20 firms.
"We have hard evidence that shows the generic drug industry perpetrated a multibillion dollar fraud on the American people," Tong said. "We have emails, text messages, telephone records and former company insiders that we believe will prove a multi-year conspiracy to fix prices and divide market share for huge numbers of generic drugs."
The lawsuit, filed by 43 states and Puerto Rico, also names 15 individual senior executives responsible for sales, marketing and pricing.
Investigators said the drugs covered in the suit account for billions of dollars of sales in the United States.
During a 19-month period beginning in July 2013, the suit said Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., one of the companies named in the suit, significantly raised prices on approximately 112 different generic drugs, and on at least 86 of those drugs colluded with a group it referred to as "high quality" competitors.
The suit said that the size of the price increases varied but was over 1,000 percent for a number of the drugs.
A spokesman for Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, said Teva hasn't engaged in any conduct that would lead to civil or criminal liability.
"The allegations in this new complaint, and in the litigation more generally, are just that -- allegations," Kelley Dougherty, a Teva vice president, said in a statement Saturday. "The company delivers high-quality medicines to patients around the world and is committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations in doing so."
To use the drug doxycycline hyclate's cost as an example of the drug price increase, the average market price of a bottle containing 500 of 100mg tablets cost $20 in 2013, but rose to $1,849 the next year.
The civil suit is asking for a finding that the defendants' actions violated federal and state antitrust and consumer protection laws and is seeking a permanent injunction preventing the companies from continuing the conduct.
The lawsuit also seeks reimbursement of profits from the actions and damages to be paid to the state agencies and consumers who were harmed by the drug company practices.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.