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McKesson to pay $151M to settle drug-pricing suit

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McKesson Corp.McKesson Corp. will pay $151 million to 29 states and the District of Columbia to settle a lawsuit alleging the company inflated prices of hundreds of prescription drugs, causing state Medicaid programs to overpay millions of dollars in reimbursements, officials said Friday.

The agreement with San Francisco-based McKesson, one of the country's largest drug wholesalers, settles allegations the company deliberately inflated drug prices by as much as 25 percent from 2001 to 2009.

An investigation by state and federal agencies found that McKesson overbilled for more than 1,400 brand-name drugs from 2001 to 2009. They include commonly prescribed medications such as Adderall, Allegra, Ambien, Celexa, Lipitor, Neurontin, Prevacid, Prozac and Ritalin, officials said.

California will receive about $24 million of the settlement, said state Attorney General Kamala Harris. That money will go to the state Medicaid program, not recipients.

"In these difficult budget times, it is crucial that California's scarce public resources support the urgent needs of our state," Harris said in a statement. "We cannot allow dollars meant for patients to be diverted to inflate corporate profits."

McKesson representative Kris Fortner said the claims against the company are without merit, but "given the inherent uncertainty of litigation, we determined that this settlement was in the best interest of our employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders."

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