Maine Department of Human Services Commissioner Attributes DOJ Opposition to Drug Discount Program to Politics
Maine Department of Human Services Commissioner Kevin Concannon on Tuesday said that political considerations prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to file a brief with the Supreme Court last month in opposition to Maine Rx, a program that would allow the state to serve as a pharmacy benefits manager for 325,000 residents without prescription drug coverage, the Portland Press Herald reports (Weinstein, Portland Press Herald, 10/2). Under the program, enacted by the state Legislature in 2000 but not yet implemented, Maine would negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for rebates on prescription drugs equal to or larger than those set by federal law for the Medicaid program. The state would pass the rebate to pharmacies, which would offer a discount to Maine Rx enrollees. In 2000, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America filed a lawsuit against Concannon and Maine Rx. PhRMA v. Concannon alleges that the program violates federal Medicaid law and interstate commerce laws. A federal district court in Maine ruled in favor of PhRMA, but the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston overturned the decision in May 2001 (California Healthline, 9/23).
Earlier this year, U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson recommended that the Supreme Court not hear an appeal of the case, which would have allowed the state to implement the program (Portland Press Herald, 10/2). However, the Supreme Court in June accepted the case. In a brief filed with the court on Sept. 20, the Justice Department questioned the legality of Maine Rx, which the brief said does not target low-income or elderly residents or those with other requirements for help with the cost of prescription drugs (California Healthline, 9/23). "For some reason, the same solicitor general who said to the Supreme Court, 'We don't think you should take the case' now is siding with PhRMA," Concannon said, adding, "I can't help but wonder, were there politics in this?" (Portland Press Herald, 10/2).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.