Originally created 08/12/97

Drug company settles lawsuit



NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay up to $135 million to settle allegations it suppressed research showing that its prescription thyroid drug is no better than cheaper alternatives.

As many as 8 million people who paid two to three times more for Synthroid are eligible, plaintiffs' attorney Allan Kanner said Monday.

Knoll Pharmaceutical Co., a Mount Olive-based subsidiary of BASF Corp. in Germany, admitted no wrongdoing under the settlement, which was reached Aug. 1 and is suject to approval by a federal judge.

In a statement, Knoll president Carter Eckert said he agreed to settle to avoid a costly and burdensome legal battle.

In April, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study, commissioned by Knoll, that concluded that Synthroid - a synthetic thyroid hormone - is no better than two generic alternatives or the brand-name drug Levoxyl.

Knoll disagreed with the study, and considered suing to stop its publication. Betty Dong, the researcher at the University of California at San Francisco who conducted the study, told the journal that Knoll had suppressed her findings for more than six years.

Synthroid controls 85 percent of the market for synthetic thyroid hormone. It is used by people whose thyroid glands have been damaged by disease or have been surgically removed. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism.

One hundred tablets of a typical daily dose cost about $28, compared with about $11 for the same amount of Levoxyl.

Under the settlement, Knoll will contribute $98 million to a fund to pay plaintiffs in about 60 lawsuits filed nationwide over the past several months. If more than 5 million users apply for reimbursement, the company will pay up to $135 million.