Thursday, July 16, 2009

CSL, Baxter Sued Over Accusations of Blood Monopoly

July 16 (Bloomberg) -- CSL Ltd. and Baxter International Inc. were sued by a Missouri hospital over allegations they conspired to fix and raise prices for blood plasma products.

The companies used key words to encourage each other to increase supply only incrementally to keep pace with demand and not to increase supply to the extent the companies actually compete for market share, lawyers for Pemiscot Memorial Hospital, based in Hayti, Missouri, said in a complaint filed yesterday. The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia federal court.

“As a result of the conspiracy, prices for blood plasma products were higher than they otherwise would have been,” Marc Machiz, an attorney for Pemiscot, said in the complaint. “Beginning in 2005 and continuing through the present, prices for blood plasma proteins have increased substantially.”

Baxter and Melbourne-based CSL are the world’s largest makers of blood plasma products. Last month CSL abandoned a $3.1 billion bid for Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp. after regulators blocked the plan.

The deal would have helped CSL overtake Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter as the leader in the $15 billion global market for blood plasma-derived medical treatments such as immunoglobin, used to treat patients with weakened immune systems.

FTC Lawsuit

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission earlier sued to stop CSL’s proposed acquisition over claims the deal would leave the two largest companies with 80 percent of the U.S. market for blood plasma products.

Baxter spokesman Chris Bona said the company wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and declined further comment. Robin Gilliland, an outside spokesman for CSL, said the company hasn’t seen the complaint and has no comment.

Pemiscot’s complaint seeks to represent purchasers of blood plasma proteins in the U.S. from Oct. 1, 2004, to the present. The complaint is also seeking unspecified damages.

The FTC said last month that the plasma protein industry showed “troubling signs of coordinated behavior,” according to Pemiscot’s complaint. The FTC’s complaint describes signals between the two companies suggesting that increasing production of blood plasma products could hurt their ability to reap significant profits, according to Pemiscot’s complaint.

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