AARP, States Not Hiring Plaintiffs’ Lawyers for Lawsuits Seeking to Reduce Rx Drug Prices
The AARP and some states considering lawsuits aimed at lowering prescription drug costs have opted against hiring plaintiffs' lawyers, whom some state attorneys general feel are "motivated by the prospect of large monetary settlements" during similar lawsuits filed against tobacco companies in the 1990s, the Wall Street Journal reports. AARP today is expected to announce that it will join lawsuits brought by the Boston-based Prescription Access Litigation Project against pharmaceutical companies rather than retain Richard Scruggs, an attorney who represented almost 30 states in tobacco litigation (Gold/Caffrey, Wall Street Journal, 5/29). In the last year, PAL, a coalition of 75 consumer and health groups, filed 30 class-action lawsuits asserting that large drug companies improperly inflated prices for various treatments (California Healthline, 4/23). Stephen Rosenfeld, PAL's senior legal adviser, said the tobacco lawsuits were "too much about money" and did not change the way companies sold cigarettes, adding that he hopes the lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies will result in a "system change" in marketing and selling drugs. AARP also is expected to announce that it will join an antitrust lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry filed by the Federal Trade Commission. The lawsuit involves complaints that brand-name drug makers paid potential generic competitors to keep lower-cost drugs off the market for a period of time to maintain market exclusivity and accompanying higher prices (Goldreich, Congressional Quarterly Monitor, 5/28).
The Journal reports that some states also "have a bad taste" for private lawyers because of disagreements over the amount of fees they received after the tobacco litigation, which resulted in large awards. Delaware Attorney General Jane Brady (R) decided not to join lawsuits brought against drug makers by Nevada, which hired an outside law firm to argue the case on a contingency basis. "I'm philosophically opposed to providing contingency-fee payments to private attorneys to resolve matters of public interest law," Brady said. Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery (R), chair of a new task force of nearly 40 state prosecutors that is exploring a series of lawsuits against the drug industry, added, "We're not in the litigation simply for money." The task force has considered hiring outside contingency-fee attorneys, an idea that most task force members oppose. Montgomery said the task force instead might create a multistate in-house legal team (Wall Street Journal, 5/29).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.