Big Pharma gets slapped by SCOTUS– What does it mean for the American taxpayer?

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The Supreme Court in the Spotlight Again!? Really? Actually, this one kicked off last week’s “Week in SCOTUS”, coinciding with their 5th Circuit kick down on  Affirmative Action in Texas, and predates both the DOMA and Voting Rights decisions.

Not surprisingly, this decision got buried beneath the other rulings. It does, however, weigh heavily on the future of health care costs and benefits to millions of Americans.

Pharmaceutical companies paying off their competition to keep their market share—the Supreme Court said no in a 5-3 decision on Monday June 24, 2013.

The case focused on generic drug maker Watson (now Activis), which accepted payments of $31-$42 million a year from AbbVie’s subsidiary Solvay for agreeing not to bring their cheaper generic versions to market until 2015. The federal government argued that the policies which allow these deals keep generic drugs off the market, benefitting drug companies at the expense of consumers.  SCOTUS agrees. According to the ruling, these pay-for-delay deals should be subject to antitrust scrutiny.

The impact of that decision is now being realized.

While this is a victory for consumers and should result in more generic options and slightly lower costs in the market, it is just a drop in the bucket towards addressing an epidemic problem in this country.  Rising drug prices are a major driver of health care costs. Consumers in the U. S. pay more for pharmaceuticals than do consumers in any other nation.

Even with the SCOTUS decision, Big Pharma will barely notice a decrease in their nearly $600 billion annual profits, and they will continue to spend millions of dollars for an army of lobbyists to ensure that consumers pay higher than market prices for prescription drugs.

Meanwhile, seniors, people with disabilities, and the poor will continue to struggle every month to pay for prescription drugs that they need to stay healthy.  Add to that the looming debate on the federal budget deficit that will surely put Medicaid and Medicare–critical programs that they depend on—and our most vulnerable will be asked to absorb drastic cuts.  Pharma depends on those programs too. Each program pays out Billions of dollars a year to pharmaceutical companies. The price paid—by the American people—is higher than market rate. So who pays?

We do. More than once.

And we can start with Medicare Part D, a vital program that, almost unbelievably, does not have the power to negotiate with Big Pharma for lower prescription drug prices.  It is common practice for government programs to negotiate prescription prices. The Veterans Administration takes measures on behalf of our service men and women every year. Yet Medicare was specifically banned from that practice when ‘Medicare Part D’ was passed into law.  Big Pharma with its Big Profits can clearly afford to negotiate, and Americans—and our government—simply can’t afford not to.

A Center for Economic and Policy Research report states that if we could bring Big Pharma to the table and bring down Rx costs, the federal government could save as much as $541.3 billion over the next decade. The saving to the states would be as high as $72.7 billion, and beneficiaries would save $112.4 billion.  It makes no sense to walk away from these kinds of savings to taxpayers and consumers just so that Big Pharma can continue to rake in billions of dollars.  Exactly who is it that our government is supposed to advocate for and protect?

Senators Klobuchar, Franken, Durbin and Rockefeller have all introduced bills in Washington that would begin to reign in high costs, save billions in taxpayer dollars, and hold Big Pharma accountable to pay their fair share.  The Alliance for a Just Society has recently launched a new website, to inspire action and to send a message to our decision-makers in DC that we applaud and support these bills as important first steps.  Please visit our new website and sign a national petition telling Congress that we must change our priorities and pass meaningful legislation that begins to bring down prescription drug prices.  Wealthy corporations don’t need our protection—they need to pay their fair share.

7,000 Americans nationwide have signed our petition to bring Big Pharma to the negotiating table with the American taxpayer. It’s our money and our benefits. It’s our job to protect them both.
Please sign the national petition to keep Big Pharma’s Hooks off of Our Congress