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Federal, State Governments Join Lawsuits Against Wyeth

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The U.S. government and more than a dozen states are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from New Jersey-based drug maker Wyeth, which is accused of overcharging Medicaid programs for the stomach acid drug Protonix.

The Justice Department and the states have joined two whistleblower lawsuits filed in federal court in Massachusetts, the Associated Press reported. The lawsuits charge that between 2000 and 2006, Wyeth offered thousands of hospitals large discounts on two versions of Protonix, but did not offer the same deal to state Medicaid programs. Brand name drug makers are required to offer the same rebates to state Medicaid programs that they give to other customers.

"By offering massive discounts to hospitals, but then hiding that information from the Medicaid program, we believe Wyeth caused Medicaid programs throughout the country to pay much more for these drugs than they should have," Assistant Attorney General Tony West said in a news release.

The government wants the court to force Wyeth to pay penalties of up to three times the amount lost by Medicaid, the AP reported.

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