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The Scales of Justice Tip

The Scales of Justice Tip


A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has removed an injunction that prevented the launch of a program in Maine allowing the state to pressure drugmakers to lower the prices of their medications, including anti-HIV drugs, or face having their products curtailed through the state Medicaid program. The program, called Maine Rx, was approved by lawmakers in 2000 to help lower the cost of expensive medications, but it was put on hold when contested by the pharmaceutical industry. Maine Rx would allow health officials to restrict the access of about 200,000 Medicaid patients to a particular company's medications if the drugmaker does not lower the cost of its drugs for other state residents. The program was challenged in court by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which claimed Maine Rx violates the federal Medicaid law and provisions of the U.S. Constitution governing interstate commerce. But the high court, in a 6'3 decision, lifted the injunction banning Maine Rx's launch without specifically endorsing the program. Reports estimate that the program could begin by year's end, but experts say additional legal challenges are expected before then. More than half of the other U.S. states supported Maine in the case, and at least 12 are considering launching similar programs to help reduce the costs of prescription medications, including anti-HIV drugs that can carry a five-figure annual price tag. Drug-access advocates praised the high court's ruling. 'This decision is a victory for consumers, who deserve access to more affordable prescription drugs,' Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine told the Los Angeles Times. But whether that victory endures remains to be seen.

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