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DOJ, Health Care Groups File Briefs to Stop Big Drug Companies’ Efforts To Derail the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program

By August 14, 2023No Comments

Protect Our Care Joins Public Citizen and Leading Health Care Advocates to Protect Medicare’s Power to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices

With Medicare slated to begin negotiating lower prescription drug prices with big drug companies in the coming weeks, drug companies and their mega lobbying group allies are desperately suing the federal government in an effort to protect their profits by halting the popular program. In one lawsuit, a group of national, state, and regional Chambers of Commerce has moved for a preliminary injunction and asked the court for a decision on their case by October. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice and leading health care groups filed briefs to deny the preliminary injunction and protect the Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program. Read more about the cases here

These meritless lawsuits are about one thing: protecting drug companies’ outrageous profits. According to STAT, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent nearly $30 million in lobbying efforts in 2021. While they rake in billions, U.S. drug prices are up to four times higher than prices in other high-income countries, leading patients in America to cut pills and skip doses to make ends meet. 

Medicare drug price negotiation is projected to lower costs for seniors and save taxpayers by tens of billions of dollars, but big drug companies are eager to protect their outrageous prices and outsized profits. Drug companies that manufacture drugs likely to be eligible for negotiation have a history of exploiting the patent system to protect their monopolies and keep competitor drugs off the market, spend millions on lobbying, and increase their list prices at rates that far exceed inflation.

Here are excerpts from the DOJ and Health Care Advocate Briefs:

Protect Our Care, Public Citizen, and Others Filed an Amicus Brief In Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction: A Preliminary Injunction Goes Against the Public Interest & Would Enjoin the Negotiation Process at the Expense of Seniors. “In short, high prices make access difficult for many, harming their finances, their health, and their ability to enjoy life. A preliminary injunction would extend these concrete, irreparable harms by severely disrupting the statutory timetable and process for achieving lower prices, and thus create a substantial risk that Congress’s 2026 deadline for implementation of the program will not be met. In marked contrast, because manufacturers of drugs selected for negotiation in the first year of the program do not have to make drugs available at the negotiated price until 2026, plaintiffs’ claim could be remedied after final judgment, if plaintiffs were to prevail, without risk of irreparable harm. The equities and the public interest thus strongly favor allowing the drug price negotiation program to move forward while plaintiffs’ lawsuit is pending.” [Protect Our Care, Public Citizen et al. Brief, 8/14/23]

Federal Government’s Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion: “Derailing the [Medicare Negotiation Program] Would Inflict Grave Harm to the Government, Medicare Beneficiaries, and the American Taxpayer.” Writing in opposition to plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction halting the drug negotiation program in Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce et al. v. Becerra et al., the federal government wrote: “Not surprisingly, drug manufacturers lobbied hard against legislative efforts to seat the Secretary at the negotiating table. And now that their lobbying failed, manufacturers and interest groups have run to court, filing multiple suits around the country challenging the statute on its face. […] Just as a defense contractor could not build an aircraft carrier and force an unwilling Pentagon to buy it (at any price), so too manufacturers cannot force their drugs onto the government at unilaterally dictated rates. […] At bottom, Plaintiffs’ objection to the Negotiation Program is little more than ‘a dispute with the policy choices’ made by Congress, masquerading as constitutional theory. […] After years of effort, Congress has finally enacted a law that builds on time-tested models to reduce costs and put Medicare on a path toward fiscal sustainability. Derailing that program before it starts would inflict grave harm to the government, Medicare beneficiaries, and the American taxpayer.” [Opposition to Motion for a Preliminary Injunction in Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce et al. v. Becerra et al., 8/11/23]

Federal Government’s Motion To Dismiss: The Chambers Of Commerce Want to Halt Medicare’s Ability to Negotiate a Better Deal For Patients and the American Taxpayer. “[T]he U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates are, by some metrics, the largest lobbying enterprise in the United States; they filed this lawsuit to achieve through the courts what they tried and failed to achieve through the legislative process. Plaintiffs seek a court order that would nullify key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), in which Congress authorized Medicare to try and negotiate a better deal for patients and the American taxpayer on some of the pharmaceutical industry’s most lucrative drugs. […] Structuring their business to depend on government dollars does not vest manufacturers with a constitutional right to taxpayer funds. […] To the extent that AbbVie will ever suffer any financial injury, it would not be until 2026, when any new prices would take effect. And actual price negotiations are necessary for the Court to evaluate whether, for example, the (mostly unidentified) manufacturers that Plaintiffs purport to represent really will face “prices so low as to deprive [them] of their property without due process of law,” […] which requires knowing, most obviously, what those prices will be.” [Motion to Dismiss in Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce et al. v. Becerra et al., 8/11/23]