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The New Jersey drug maker who was became part of a debate over the cost of prescription drugs when their former CEO ran for the United States Senate last year, has agreed to pay $55 million to settle a class action lawsuit.
Celgene was sued for blocking generic drug competition as a way to raise prices on two life-saving cancer drugs.
Bob Hugin, who spent 18 years at Celgene, spent $36 million of his own money in an unsuccessful bid to oust Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez in the 2018 mid-term election.
“With this settlement, it is now more clear than ever that under Bob Hugin’s leadership of Celgene, he lined his own pockets with millions of dollars from long-suffering cancer patients. Hugin should be ashamed of this record,” Menendez told the New Jersey Globe. “I hope this settlement brings some financial relief to the individuals and families who need it, and serves as a warning to other corporate CEOs not to put profits over patients in the way that Bob Hugin did for so long.”
The lawsuit alleged that Celgene’s business practices cost cancer patients millions of dollars after Celgene hogged the market for Revlimid and Thalomid, creating higher prices for cancer patients and their insurance companies.
“Celgene Corporation has abused patients and taxpayers for years,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This settlement will provide some restitution for those who paid too much for Celgene’s cancer drugs.”
Mitchell founded Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, which spent nearly $3 million on TV ads bashing Hugin’s tenure at Celgene. He took Revlimid, one of the drugs manufactured by Celgene.
TV ads Mitchell’s PAC ran accused Hugin of making more than $140 million off the sale of Revlimid and doubled the price three times, even as patients were going broke paying for the drug.
Mitchell said he will donate any money he personally makes off the settlement to Patients for Affordable Drugs to help lobby lawmakers to fight for lower prescription drug prices.
During the Senate race, Menendez ran TV ads that focused on a Justice Department lawsuit accusing Celgene of selling two of its flagship drugs off-script and orchestrating a series of kickback schemes to boost sales.
Celgene settled the lawsuit after reaching an agreement with the government, the terms of which have not been made public. Though, it did involve a payment of $280 million.
Several labor unions joined Mitchell in his class action, including the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers.
In January, Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to buy Celgene for $74 billion in a deal that could close this week. That will likely make Hugin whole for his expenditures in a Senate bid that netted him just 43% of the vote.