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Walgreens Overcharged for Generic Meds, Lawsuit Claims

A Walgreens lawsuit claims the nation's largest drugstore chain violated federal racketeering laws by conspiring to charge customers for expensive drugs instead of generics.

The suit, filed Jan. 11 in federal court in Chicago, accuses Walgreen Co. and drug maker Par Pharmaceutical Co. of raking in millions of dollars in the alleged scheme, Bloomberg reports.

An employee union's health-benefits fund filed the Walgreens suit, claiming Walgreens filled its members' prescriptions with Par's higher-priced drugs, when the prescriptions specifically called for generic drugs.

The drugs at issue included Zantac, an antacid, and Prozac, an antidepressant, Bloomberg reports.

The union's health-benefits fund, along with insurance companies, paid "many millions of dollars" in overcharges from 2001 to 2006, the Walgreens lawsuit claims. The United Food and Commercial Workers Unions and Employers Midwest Health and Pension Fund are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

The Walgreens lawsuit alleges Walgreen and Par violated federal racketeering laws. Racketeering occurs when one party works with another party to engage in an illegal scheme to make a profit.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO Act, broadened the scope of racketeering charges to include different types of organized crime. In general, anti-racketeering laws allow for a criminal group's assets to be confiscated.

This isn't the first time Walgreens has been accused of overcharging for prescriptions. Walgreens paid $35 million in 2008 to settle claims it overcharged state Medicaid programs for generic versions of Zantac and Prozac, Bloomberg reports.

A Walgreens spokesman declined to comment, and a Par representative was not available to comment on the latest Walgreens lawsuit, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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