Illinois is among more than 40 states joining a lawsuit alleging that drug manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate and manipulate prices for more than 100 different generic drugs, including treatments for diabetes, cancer and other conditions.
The federal lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut also names 15 individual senior executives.
The lawsuit says investigators obtained emails, text messages and telephone records to prove a multi-year conspiracy against 20 firms, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, Mylan Pharmaceuticals and several others.
"These drug companies conspired to increase drug prices and their profits at the expense of the Americans who rely on these oftentimes lifesaving prescriptions," Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. "This conduct is illegal and immoral, and I am proud to join my fellow attorneys general to hold these manufacturers and individuals accountable."
A spokesman for one of the companies named in the suit, 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."
Investigators said the drugs covered in the suit account for billions of dollars of sales in the United States.
The suit was filed by 43 states and Puerto Rico with Connecticut taking the lead in the probe.
The suit alleges that for many years these makers of generic drugs had operated under an agreement not to compete with each other and to settle instead for what these companies referred to as a "fair share" of the market to avoid pushing prices down through competition.
But by 2012, the suit says that Teva and the other companies decided to "take this understanding to the next level." It alleges that "Teva and its co-conspirators embarked on one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States."
The suit says that the companies sought not only to maintain their "fair share" of the generic drug market but also to "significantly raise prices on as many drugs as possible."
To accomplish this goal, the suit says that Teva selected a core group of competitors with which it already had "very profitable collusive relationships," and developed understandings to lead and follow each other's price increases.
The suit contends that this resulted in "many billions of dollars of harm to the national economy over a period of several years."
During a 19-month period beginning in July 2013, the suit says Teva 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 says that the size of the price increases varied but was over 1,000% for a number of the drugs.
The suit says that the defendants knew their conduct was unlawful and usually chose to communicate in person or by cell phone "in an attempt to avoid creating a written record of their illegal conduct."
"When communications were reduced to writing or text messages, defendants often took overt and calculated steps to destroy evidence of those communications," according to the suit.
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 suit 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.