Drug companies challenge Minnesota prescription discount law in federal court

Published 9:48 am Friday, July 5, 2024

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By Dana Ferguson, Minnesota Public Radio News

Several drug companies filed lawsuits in federal court this week challenging a Minnesota law governing the price of medication, saying its inclusion in a bill regulating cannabis and the authority of the state to regulate discounts are misplaced.

Drug manufacturers AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Allergan, Durata Therapeutics, Pharmacyclics and Aptalis Pharma filed complaints in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

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They take issue with a provision of the expansive law that requires them to “restrict, prohibit or interfere” with the delivery of a drug available through a federal program that helps send discounted medicines to hospitals that treat low-income and uninsured patients.

The companies said Minnesota doesn’t have the authority to enforce what’s known as the 340B program or to require drug manufacturers to turn over their property without due process.

“It effectively gives covered entities unfettered authority to take manufacturers’ property for the benefit of private parties of their choice,” attorneys representing AbbVie wrote in their complaint.

They argued that the policy also runs afoul of state and federal laws requiring that legislation only address a single subject. They asked the court to deem the law unconstitutional and block it from taking effect.

Spokespeople for AbbVie and AstraZeneca didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

Sen. Alice Mann, DFL-Edina, is an emergency room physician and sponsored the proposal dealing with the 340B program that got wrapped up in the larger bill. She said the policy was needed to ensure that drug companies continued to supply affordable medicines after some had limited pharmacies and hospitals that were eligible in recent years.

“We simply made sure that we were following federal law, as it was intended to be followed,” Mann said. “Any time we cut into [drug manufacturers’] billion-dollar profit margins, they come after the law, and they sue the state, they sue the federal government. This is not new, this is very much the pharmaceutical playbook.”

Mann said that other states had taken similar steps to ensure that drug manufacturers complied with the federal law and overcame legal challenges from companies.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is set to defend the law against the challenges, told MPR News that he wasn’t surprised to see the drug makers challenge the policy.

“The fact is it’s not unconstitutional,” Ellison said. “It’s an important and very good program. And yet this is just par for the course for the big pharmaceutical companies that are always trying to jack up their prices at the expense of people’s health.”