The People's Perspective on Medicine

Generic Drug Companies Played Nice in the Sandbox

It is estimated that about 90% of all the meds purchased in the U.S. come from generic drug companies. Have key players been colluding in the "sandbox"?
Cash money bucket

A large antitrust suit against generic drug companies has been building for a few years. When we first heard about this situation in November, 2016, approximately a dozen generic firms were implicated. The Justice Department was investigating possible collusion. There were hints that key players from different generic drug companies got together in secretive meetings. For the guys it might be on the golf course or at a fancy restaurant. Women were reported to have scheduled “Girls Nights Out” where they could have drinks, let their hair down and make deals.

Playing Nice in the “Sandbox”

47 states are cooperating in an antitrust lawsuit against 16 generic drug manufacturers. The Attorneys General have presented evidence of collusion and price fixing. The suit includes 300 drugs.

Executives met to determine which manufacturers would control certain medications and what prices could be charged. Everyone was expected to play nice in this pharmaceutical sandbox. Despite the continued investigation, many generic drug prices remain high.

The Largest Drug Cartel?

When you hear the words “drug cartel” you probably think of violent gangs like the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Before that there was the Medellin Cartel in Colombia renowned for shipping cocaine into the U.S.

Joseph Nielsen is an assistant attorney general for the state of Connecticut. He is an antitrust investigator. Christopher Rowland has written an insightful article for the Washington Post (Dec. 9, 2018) in which he describes the generic drug companies efforts this way:

“‘This is most likely the largest cartel in the history of the United States,’ Nielsen said. He cited the volume of drugs in the schemes, that they took place on American soil and the ‘total number of companies involved, and individuals.'”

What’s Next?

Generic drugs are supposed to be inexpensive. And yet we have seen many examples in recent years where generic drug companies have raised prices dramatically. And there have been shortages that seem hard to explain.

If generic drug companies got together in the “sandbox” to divvy up the market place and adjust prices, it is likely that antitrust violations occurred. This investigation has been going on for years. Here is an article we wrote over a year ago.

Two years ago we wrote about skyrocketing generic drug prices:

It may take a while longer before we learn the full extent of the skullduggery. In the meantime, the reputation of many of the largest generic drug companies has been tarnished by expanding allegations. Do you know who distributes your generic medications and where they are made?

Rate this article
4.6- 19 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Saving Money on Medicines

This online guide offers 20 pages of information on how to safely buy prescription drugs from Canada, assess generic drugs, qualify for free medicine from drug companies, and more. Updated 10/2016.

Saving Money on Medicines
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 10 comments
Add your comment

My wife takes Valtrex for occasional outbreaks of fever blisters. She has tried the generic Valtrex several times without success. We order Valtrex from Canada at significant savings.

Not all genetics are equal to brand names either. I take generic Duloxetine manufactured but PRASCO. I tried another company once, and I knew right away it wasn’t effective.

I too have a big problem taking generic drugs. The fillers are not the same as name brand. I never got sick with a drug until I took generic. I now buy my drugs in Canada and Mexico, or any destination that sells drugs over the counter. I never have a problem with these drugs. I cannot understand how the major drug companies in this country allow this garbage to be sold everywhere.

I know first hand that not all generics are the same as the name brand, as soon as Lovaza became available as a generic I was switched over to the generic , it messed up my stomach so badly, I then tried a second generic which was not as bad as the first but still too unsettling to my stomach, I am back on Lovaza and paying a fortune for it.

I’ve had so many drug reactions over the years and firmly believe that most of them are from fillers in these generic drugs which cause the reaction. I’m scared to try anything new that a Dr prescribes because of the scare caused by drug reactions. Somebody has to get on top of this as many people suffer as I do and live in fear about using a new drug. Thanks for keeping the public informed of many healthcare issues.

Don’t think for one minute that doctors are not getting a cut of the pie as well, When the reps call on the doctor’s office and give out samples, etc. , they then will begin writing scripts for the drugs involved, and so the merry go round keeps going. Why doesn’t the FDA or some other body of government overseers stop all of this. It’s about time the public stood up against all this.

All I know is that my antibiotic that I am taking now was made in Amman, Jordan by Hikma Pharmaceuticals and distributed by West-Ward Pharmaceuticals. Thankfully it was very inexpensive. I am going to call my drug coverage company and see if I can take only brand name meds made in USA or as close as possible. Maybe they’ll tell me there’s a deal on land in Florida!

Chuck B.
Reading, PA

All I’m going to say is… generic drugs DO NOT work the same as brand drugs. I wish someone would get on top of this. But then again Doctors aren’t the same either. Who’s to blame, government or big pharma?

Government, Big Pharma & Dr.’s are to blame. So does anyone know how to begin changing this system? I don’t.

I think it depends on the person & the actual drug being taken. I have taken several generic drugs and have only taken two that have not worked as well as the branded drug.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^