AARP Plans to Join Lawsuits Against Brand-Name Drug Companies
AARP, an advocacy group for Americans ages 50 and older, yesterday announced plans to join a number of lawsuits filed against brand-name pharmaceutical companies to help address increased prescription drug prices, the New York Times reports. AARP lawyers said the group would join lawsuits that question the legality of "tactics" used by brand-name drug companies to delay the introduction of less expensive generic rivals to the market. In addition, AARP will help defend against lawsuits by drug companies programs that states have developed to purchase large amounts of prescription drugs at a reduced cost. "We plan to join several high-profile cases that would make generic drugs more readily available to consumers," AARP Executive Director William Novelli said. AARP lawyers added that they also hope to "influence settlement negotiations for the benefit" of the group's 35 million members. For example, AARP may join some lawsuits filed by the Prescription Access Litigation Project, a coalition of 75 consumer and health groups that has filed 30 class-action lawsuits in the past year "asserting that large drug companies improperly inflated the prices" for treatments such as tamoxifen, Cipro and BuSpar. Christopher Molineaux, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "We share AARP's desire to have affordable drugs for seniors. We agree that there is an important role for generic drugs in the health care system. But it's short-sighted to focus only on affordability. If you skew the balance too far toward the use of generic drugs, you reduce the revenue stream that feeds the research that generates new drugs" (Pear, New York Times, 4/23).
AARP officials announced the decision to join the lawsuits in conjunction with the launch of a $10 million campaign to counteract the effects of direct-to-consumer advertising of brand-name treatments and to encourage seniors to ask their doctors about less expensive generic alternatives. AARP hopes that the campaign -- called "Wise Use of Medications" -- will "save seniors money" on pharmaceuticals and prompt lawmakers to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the group's "top legislative priority this year." John Rother, national director of policy and strategy at AARP, said, "If we can all do our part to keep costs down, it will be good for our health care system ... and improve the possibilities of getting a prescription benefit." The campaign will include print and television ads that promote the use of generic drugs and urge seniors to "beware of splashy advertisements that might sell them on new drugs they don't need." A March survey of 1,250 Americans ages 45 and older found that only 31% of respondents asked their doctors to prescribe generic treatments and that only 13% "shopped for the best prices" (Lade, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.