A Georgia-based health system has lodged a complaint against Becton, Dickinson and Co., accusing the medical products manufacturer of stifling competition in the hypodermic syringe and intravenous catheter markets.
In a suit filed July 17, the Southeast Georgia Health System maintains that BD has charged above-competitive prices while commanding more than 70 percent of market share by revenue for the sale of syringes to acute care providers. Covidien, its next closest competitor, has about 17 percent.
Despite this market domination, the plaintiff says BD “has lethargically and unhelpfully made only minor and ineffective changes to its conventional syringes,” with its bestselling manual safety syringe earning a rating of “unacceptable” from the Emergency Care Research Institute, a testing laboratory.
BD continues to make these unsafe syringes despite federal law, which has mandated practices to reduce wounds caused by needle jabs, the suit says. Needlestick injuries put healthcare providers at greater risk for contracting HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Other companies, including Retractable Technologies, have tried to overcome BD’s “dangerous lethargy” by producing syringes that have received high marks from ECRI, the complaint adds.
BD’s alleged tactics include exclusionary bundled rebates, penalty contracts and sole-source contracts, theft of Retractable’s technology, six years of competitive deception and false advertising, and elimination of a rival through acquisition, according to court documents.
The health system maintains BD used similar tactics to gain a monopoly in the IV catheter arena.
The plaintiff further points out that the U.S. Justice Department has compelled the company to enter two consent decrees. These decrees, plus jury awards to Retractable and an acquisition of a large rival, have cost BD about $485.6 million, the complaint alleges.
In January, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled that BD must pay Retractable more than $350 million for attempting to monopolize the safety syringe market.
RTI filed suit in May 2010, alleging that ads touting BD’s needles as the sharpest in the world were false and misleading. It also contended that BD falsely told customers that its syringes saved medication versus RTI’s products ().
In the current case, the health system is seeking a class action lawsuit against BD, representing U.S.-based acute care providers that bought the company’s hypodermic syringes on or after July 17, 2011, through cost-plus distributor contracts. These contracts forced the distributors “to pass on all of Becton’s monopoly pricing,” according to court documents.
The health system also is seeking a similar action for those that purchased BD’s IV catheters.
The health system also is asking the court to find BD’s actions in violation of the Sherman Act and is seeking treble actual damages, attorneys’ fees and pre- and postjudgment interest.
“We plan a vigorous defense for this case,” Troy Kirkpatrick, BD’s director of public relations, tells IDDM.
Glynn-Brunswick Hospital Authority, Trading as Southeast Georgia Health System, Georgia Health System, Inc., v. Becton, Dickinson and Company was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
— Elizabeth Hollis