Court overturns Maine Rx ruling

July 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling and will allow the Maine Rx program to proceed.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling and will allow the Maine Rx program to proceed.

The program would allow the state to collectively negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for rebates on drugs, which would then be sold at lower costs through participating pharmacies. The law would also authorize government price controls if state officials are not satisfied with the price decreases.

"This decision by the First Circuit is great news for the 325,000 Maine people eligible for the Maine Rx program," said Maine Gov. Angus King. "This decision validates Maine's aggressive approach to lowering prescription drug prices for our citizens. The decision announced today is not the end of the road in the effort for lower prescription drug prices, but it is fantastic news that puts us much closer to the significant prescription drug discounts envisioned under the Maine Rx program."

The Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America had fought the law on the grounds that it violated both the Commerce and Supremacy clauses of the Constitution (see Pharmaceutical Representative, October, 2000). In November 2000, a federal judge overturned the law on those grounds, but this newest ruling will allow the state to proceed with the program.

Watching closely

A spokesperson for PhRMA said that, though the court had made its ruling, the issues involved were far from resolved.

"The Court of Appeals held that, at this early stage before the Maine law has gone into effect, it cannot deny the state the right to initiate this program on behalf of its citizens," said Marjorie Powell, assistant general counsel for PhRMA. "If the state's implementation of the program becomes coercive or otherwise inappropriate, the court said that the issues involved could be revisited. The court concluded, 'This is a close case, but we do not think that under the applicable law the state of Maine should be prohibited from putting the act into play.' Maine's Medicaid patients, their doctors and PhRMA will be watching the implementation of the law closely." PR

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