OLYMPIA - Cancer patients who purchased the chemotherapy drug Taxol or paclitaxel in the past four years may be eligible to receive reimbursements for illegal overcharges, according to Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

The reimbursements are part of an approximately $62.5 million national settlement of an antitrust lawsuit brought by 50 attorneys general against drug manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb. The suit alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb engaged in illegal patent activities that delayed the entry of lower priced generic versions of Taxol into the drug market. As a result, thousands of cancer patients paid inflated prices for chemotherapy.

"The last thing patients battling cancer should have to worry about is being cheated on the price of their medication," said Gregoire. "Because of this company's manipulation of patent laws, lower priced chemotherapy drugs that should have been available to these patients were not."

Patients and family members of deceased patients who paid for part or all of their treatments with Taxol or its generic equivalents from Jan. 1, 1999 through Feb. 28, 2003 are eligible to receive refunds that could range from $400 to $2,600. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 Washington patients may be eligible for reimbursements under the settlement.

Taxol, which is also marketed under the generic name paclitaxel, is a late-stage cancer treatment used primarily to treat breast and ovarian cancer patients. It is also sometimes used to treat lung cancer and certain cancers caused by AIDS.

In addition to direct restitution, approximately $7.5 million in free Taxol will be provided to the states for use in the treatment of low income cancer patients.

More information about the settlement and claims forms are available online at www.taxolsettlement.com or by calling (800) 659-7609.

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