W.Va. dental clinics benefit from antitrust settlement

In a case that shut the door on an international price-fixing scheme, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced a settlement of antitrust charges against 11 vitamin companies that yielded nearly $200,000 for nonprofit health centers and dental clinics in the state.

The settlement resolves a multistate lawsuit that was filed in federal district court in Washington, DC, on behalf of purchasers of vitamin products against 11 European and Asian drug companies. The suit -- brought by 21 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico -- claimed that the firms violated state and federal laws in an international scheme to fix prices and allocate sales of vitamin and vitamin products. These vitamins are used in products such as vitamin pills, milk, cereal, bread, and feed for chicken, beef, and fish.

The court ordered that funds from West Virginia's share of the award -- $197,413.82 -- be utilized for nonprofit or charitable organizations with the express purpose of improving the health and/or nutrition of citizens. Consistent with this judicial mandate, checks for $88,836.22 each have been presented to the West Virginia Association of Free Clinics and the Kanawha County Dental Health Council (KCDHC).

The KCDHC provides free dental clinics for schoolchildren, the elderly, and low-income families.

"Some adult West Virginians moving back into the workforce will have free dental care available as a result of the monies collected in this final case in a series of cases involving price-fixing schemes in the international sale of certain vitamins," McGraw said in a press release. "These settlements should provide incentive to all businesses to steer clear of price-fixing deals."

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