Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert sued 13 major pharmaceutical companies Wednesday, making the state the latest to accuse them of inflating drug prices in a scheme that cost the state and its citizens hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a 42-page lawsuit, Pappert accuses the drug companies of participating in an "unfair and deceptive" marketing campaign and a conspiracy that gave improper incentives to medical providers to increase their market share. About a dozen other states have filed similar complaints.

"This scheme cost our citizens and the commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharges for prescription drugs," Pappert reportedly said at a news conference. "I am seeking to return those dollars to consumers and state programs, put a stop to these practices and thereby lower the cost of prescription drugs for all of us."

He named as defendants AstraZeneca ( AZN), Bayer AG ( BAY), GlaxoSmithKline ( GSK), Pfizer ( PFE), Amgen ( AMGN), Schering-Plough ( SGP), Bristol-Myers Squib ( BMY), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), Baxter International ( BAX), Aventis Pharmaceuticals ( AVE), Boehringer Ingelheim, TAP Pharmaceutical and Dey Inc.

Pappert said he also reserves the right to take action against other companies.

The suit alleges that drug companies established and promoted "spreads" between what drug companies actually charge for the drugs and what consumers and state programs are billed.

Pappert argues that drug companies inflated the "average wholesale price" of prescription drugs to create a financial incentive for medical providers to use their drugs over a competitor's.

Federal and state programs base their reimbursement rates on the AWP, which is the price charged to private insurers and consumers for drugs. Pappert said drug companies often sell drugs to medical providers at costs well below the AWP, creating a spread between what a medical provider pays for a drug and what the provider charges consumers and the government.

In addition, the lawsuit charges that drug firms provided free goods and drug samples to medical providers, knowing that these providers would charge consumers and the state government the full price for the products.

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