Justice Department Investigating Baxter Over Saline Shortage -- Update

By Bowdeya Tweh Features Dow Jones Newswires

The Justice Department is probing Baxter International Inc. as part of an investigation into whether large producers of saline solutions and other injectable medicines colluded to create supply shortages so they could benefit from higher prices.

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Baxter said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it learned in April about the Justice Department criminal probe, and that a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania had subpoenaed documents from the company and an unnamed employee.

The subpoena called for Baxter to produce documents and testimony regarding the "manufacturing, selling, pricing and shortages of intravenous solutions and containers" sold by the company in addition to "communications with competitors regarding the same," the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In a statement late Thursday, Baxter said it "is committed to operating its business with the highest standards of integrity and compliance, and believes it has responsibly priced these life-sustaining products. We look forward to explaining the background and the company's continued efforts to help ensure continuity of supply."

The Deerfield, Ill., maker of renal and hospital products has previously said it is cooperating with the New York attorney general's office in its investigation of business practices in the intravenous-saline industry. It is also facing a complaint filed in federal court in Illinois regarding industry practices.

In October 2015, four U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether companies were limiting supplies of the key hospital staple, which had seen price increases between 200% and 300% since late 2013.

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At the time, Baxter said it was working to boost saline supplies and that the average U.S. selling price for a liter of its sterile saline solution had risen annually in the single- to low-double-digits on a percentage basis since 2013.

Shares of Baxter fell 0.6% to $55.65 in after-hours trading Thursday.

Write to Bowdeya Tweh at Bowdeya.Tweh@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 05, 2017 06:59 ET (10:59 GMT)