Consumer Protection

Synthroid Marketing

Result: $87.4 million settlement
Year: 2000

The Synthroid Marketing Controversy

Knoll Pharmaceutical manufactures Synthroid, a brand of synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) taken by millions of Americans afflicted with hypothyroidism and other diseases of the thyroid. Knoll’s predecessor, Boots Laboratories, sponsored a university study to determine whether Synthroid and a number of less expensive thyroid hormone products were "bioequivalent." The authors of the study concluded that Levoxyl and two generic thyroid hormone products were bioequivalent to Synthroid, and could therefore be substituted for Synthroid at substantial cost savings. Knoll denied the authors permission to publish the study.

Plaintiffs’ Allegations

In April 1996, the first of many class action lawsuits were filed against Knoll, alleging that Knoll wrongfully suppressed the publication of the study in order to protect Synthroid’s market share and to maintain artificially high prices for Synthroid. The lawsuits did not allege that Synthroid was unsafe or ineffective in treating thyroid disorders. The lawsuit filed by Lieff Cabraser was widely reported in the press, and received international attention.

Beginning in August 1997, the cases pending against Knoll in federal courts around the country were transferred to the Hon. Elaine E. Bucklo, a United States District Judge in Chicago, Illinois. Judge Bucklo appointed Lieff Cabraser and four other firms as Lead Counsel for the class.

The Settlement

In August 2000, Judge Bucklo gave final approval to a new $87.4 million settlement with Knoll and its parent company, BASF Corporation, on behalf of a class of all consumers who purchased Synthroid at any time from January 1, 1990 until October 21, 1999.

The deadline for submitting claims passed on March 10, 2000. Several appeals were taken from Judge Bucklo’s order approving the settlement.

Status of the Case

After a series of appeals, the settlement proceeds were distributed in the Fall of 2003.