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Attorney General Lockyer Issues Alert about Flu Vaccine Price Gouging

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today urged consumers and pharmacists to provide his office information about price gouging by flu vaccine suppliers and warned he will take enforcement action against those who exploit the supply shortage by charging unconscionable prices.

"You cannot sink much lower than illegally cashing in on a vaccine shortage that threatens the health of millions of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Californians," said Lockyer. "This is a time to do all we can to serve the public interest, not self-interest. I urge Californians to report evidence of price-gouging to my office. If the evidence warrants, I will not hesitate to take enforcement action against unlawful profiteering."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) – which has launched a program to ease the supply shortage – has received many complaints about price gouging from around the country. Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline yesterday sued Florida-based Meds-Stat, alleging deceptive and unconscionable acts.

Lockyer said his office has not yet received complaints about price gouging. But given the size of its market, he noted California could well experience problems reported in other states. Lockyer said his office will carefully evaluate flu vaccine gouging complaints for evidence of unconscionability or violations of laws governing consumer protection and unfair business practices. He added he and other attorneys general are coordinating their efforts to monitor conduct in the flu vaccine market.

The flu vaccine shortage was triggered last week when Chiron Corporation had to junk 48 million doses after British regulators closed its factory in England. Those 48 million does comprised about 50 percent of the U.S. supply. The Chiron factory closure cost California roughly 574,000 doses.

The CDCP hopes to redirect vaccines from other manufacturers to high-risk consumers in California and across the nation. Still, millions of Americans and possibly hundreds of thousands of Californians will not receive their flu shots.

Complaints can be filed online at http://www.ag.ca.gov/consumers/mailform.htm or by writing to the Public Inquiry Unit of the Attorney General's Office at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550.

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