Class Action Lawsuit Accuses Genentech of Exploiting Cancer Patients to Increase Profits by Billions of Dollars

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February 26, 2019 – San Francisco, CA – A class action lawsuit was filed in San Mateo Superior Court today accusing biotechnology giant Genentech of exploiting cancer patients by packaging cancer medications in vials that are too large for most patients. Because the unused portion of the medications cannot be safely stored after the first use, the excess must be discarded.  Genentech, however, charges and is paid for all the medication regardless of the amount that must be discarded. Genentech’s decision to package some of its most expensive medications so as to maximize waste is not an oversight; instead, it is an intentional business scheme aimed at increasing Genentech’s profits. These profits, however, come at the expense of extra costs incurred by taxpayers, private health insurers and ultimately cancer patients in desperate need of these lifesaving pharmaceuticals.

“When patients are at their lowest point, fighting tooth and nail just to live another day, Genentech gouges them for drugs the company knows the patient will never use,” said one of the lead attorneys Mike Arias of Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Torrijos. “Genentech needs to be held accountable for taking advantage of some of the sickest people in our country just so it can increase revenue.”

Lawsuit’s Allegations

A 2016 study projected that payments for wasteful portions of just 18 cancer drugs, including three manufactured by Genentech, would total $1.8 billion in revenues received by the pharmaceutical companies with another $1 billion in markups paid to doctors and hospitals. For three Genentech products alone, the total was more than half a billion dollars. This is the cost of “waste” for just one year.

“The pharmaceutical companies are given carte blanche to run up the tab on consumers and taxpayers in this country,” said Richard Cornfeld of the Law Office Of Richard S. Cornfeld, LLC. “How can people struggling to stay alive battle against multi-billion-dollar companies like Genentech which know how to manipulate the system?”

A group of cancer researchers found the federal Medicare program and private health insurers are forced to waste nearly $3 billion every year buying cancer medicines that are thrown away because drug makers distribute the drugs only in vials that hold too much for most patients. In addition, some of these costs are passed on to patients with cancer and other serious diseases to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. These costs are a result of Genentech’s deliberate packaging.

Class Rep Andrew Williamson

The cost of Andrew Williamson’s treatment with Genentech’s cancer drug Rituxan is an example of these staggering costs. Because Genentech supplies Rituxan only in large single-use vials, Andrew was forced to use vials totaling 800 mg for each treatment even when the prescribed dosage was less than that. The charges for the unused portions of Rituxan totaled $11,878.82. If Genentech had simply added a smaller vial of Rituxan, the charges for unused Rituxan would have been only $1,923.25, representing a savings of $9,955.67.

“Andrew’s struggle is the struggle of every person who needs a Genentech-manufactured drug,” said Kevin Carnie of The Simon Law Firm. “All he was focused on throughout his treatment was getting better, staying alive, and spending more time with his loved ones; but, the outrageous cost of Rituxan was like a second grim reaper hanging over him on a daily basis.”

The class action is brought by Andrew Williamson and on behalf of other end payors (patients and insurers) to recover the amounts they necessarily spent, through no fault of their own, on wasted medicine sold by Genentech.

“Andrew’s is just one story, there are countless others who had to pay extravagant prices in order to get the care they needed,” said attorney Brian Wolfman.

The case is Andrew Williamson v. Genentech, Inc., San Mateo Superior Court, Case No. 19CIV01022.

To read the complaint –