The AFL-CIO and two California consumer groups Monday sued AstraZeneca, accusing the company of misleading patients into switching to its expensive new ulcer drug just as the patent on its nearly identical but older Prilosec pill was set to expire.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the labor union, the Congress of California Seniors and the California Alliance for Retired Americans on behalf of consumers nationwide who purchased the newer pill, called Nexium.
The plaintiffs are members of the Prescription Access Litigation Project, a national coalition of 100 consumer organizations that are using class-action lawsuits to challenge prices of prescription drugs.
The coalition in a release said London-based AstraZeneca initiated “a massive and misleading advertising and promotional campaign to deceive consumers into purchasing Nexium, a nearly identical new drug” to Prilosec.
Rachel Bloom, a spokeswoman for AstraZeneca, said the firm had not seen the lawsuit. She said clinical trials had supported the efficacy of Nexium, which is different from Prilosec.
“Our promotion of Nexium is done in accordance with the FDA’s standards,” Bloom said. “It helped people who wouldn’t otherwise seek medical care for a chronic condition.”
She also said Nexium showed “superior acid control and better healing of acid-related damage.”
The coalition said the suit contended AstraZeneca used “misleading information to convince consumers that Nexium was a significantly better drug than Prilosec.”
AstraZeneca shares rose 75 cents Monday to $39 on the New York Stock Exchange.