An investigation of alleged price-fixing in the generic drug sector has grown to involve at least 16 companies and some 300 medications, according to the Connecticut official involved in the probe.

In an interview with the  Washington Post , published Sunday, Joseph Nielsen, an assistant attorney general in Connecticut, said that the inquiry , which began in 2014, had greatly widened.

The news dropped stock prices for the major manufacturers of the next day, according to  MarketWatch,  even though some stock analysts said they did not see much new in the  Washington Post  report.

The state of Connecticut began an investigation into allegedly generic price-fixing in July 2014 and filed suit in December 2016. Connecticut was joined in that filing by Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

The suit originally named Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc; Citron Pharma, LLC; Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc; Mayne Pharma (USA), Inc; Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc; and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc as plaintiffs.

In late 2017, Connecticut, joined by attorneys general from 45 states, amended the filing to say that it was seeking to involve 18 manufacturers in the price-setting of 15 drugs.

According to the  Post , the suit now includes 47 states that are at least 16 suppliers for allegedly colluding on the prices of 300 drugs . "This is most likely the largest poster in the history of the United States," Nielsen told the  Post

Closing In on a Conspiracy?

In the original filing which focused on  doxycycline and glyburide , the states described to free-wheeling atmosphere in which executives from various generic companies agreed to divide market share into the United States and to set maximum prices for various products.

Each company would know what a rival would do when competing product was introduced to chummy dinners, emails, texts, and phone calls, according to evidence uncovered by the state authorities. They found that the price for doxycycline jumped from $ 20 for 500 pills in October 2013 to more than $ 1,800 in April 2014. 

"As a result of the conspiracies enumerated herein, consumers nationwide paid more for numerous generic pharmaceutical drugs, including specifically Doxy DR and Glyburide, which they would have in a competitive market, and the defendants illegally profited as a result," said the states , in their original suit.

Pharmacies were not happy with what had been uncovered. In January, Kroger, Albertsons, and HE Butt Grocery Co filed a civil antitrust suit against 35 generic companies, including such big names as Teva, Sandoz, Mylan, and Sun Pharma.

The Kroger suit cited the ongoing attorney generals' investigation and filing, and also noted that the US Department of Justice has an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged generic price-fixing. Two former Heritage Pharmaceuticals executives pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges, and are cooperating with the Justice Department, according to the  Post .

Big Money at Stake

If any of the generic companies are found guilty, the states and private pharmacies and the federal government could reap a big payback. The allegedly excessive charges would affect insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, and individuals. "Everyone is paying the price," Nielsen told the  Post , adding that the only reason for the generic companies' behavior was "greed."

The generic drug industry's trade organization, the Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM), estimates that generic account for 90% of prescriptions dispensed, but account for only 23% of total drug costs.

When asked for comment on the  Post  story, an AAM spokesperson said, "Our association and member companies support competition and oppose price-fixing." The organization has policies to help ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws, the spokesperson told  Medscape Medical News .

"The  Washington Post  article recycles years-old allegations that are inconsistent with industry providing patients with measurable healthcare savings through competition," said the spokesperson, adding that they were among the biggest bargains in healthcare. She said that 93% of generic prescriptions are filled for $ 20 or less.