The pharmaceutical industry has launched a series of legal challenges to try to stop the Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare drug price negotiation program from taking effect.

In 2003, Congress created Medicare Part D, which helps cover the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. Under the new law, unlike other government programs and agencies like the Veterans Administration or TRICARE, Medicare would not be allowed to negotiate the prices on the prescription drugs it was purchasing. With Medicare Part D unable to negotiate on these prices for essential medicines that people rely on to stay alive, the cost of the program has ballooned into one of the federal government’s biggest expenditures. 

This system of drug pricing, especially in Medicare, has proven to be bad for the health and financial well-being of patients and consumers in the United States. More than one-third of Americans say cost has prevented them from filling a prescription. People of color, people with disabilities, people with lower incomes, and women disproportionately bear the brunt of high drug prices. And we pay 2-2.5 times what other similar countries pay for prescription drugs. 

Recognizing the status quo was unsustainable, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 aimed to address the problem of out-of-control drug prices by requiring Medicare to negotiate prices on the most expensive drugs covered by Medicare Part D. The pharmaceutical industry subsequently launched a series of legal challenges to try to stop the drug price negotiation program from taking effect. 

One such legal challenge to the negotiation process is Merck v. Becerra, in which the pharmaceutical giant, Merck, is arguing that the negotiation process—a process in which they are not required to take part—is unconstitutional. In addition to their legal claims, they and their industry partners in parallel cases also make the dubious claim that price negotiations will harm patients and public health by stifling innovation in the drug industry.

That is why the the American College of Physicians (ACP), American Public Health Association (APHA), Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM), and American Geriatrics Society (AGS)—organizations that, together, represent nearly 200,000 medical and public health professionals around the country—have submitted a friend of the court brief to highlight the evidence and make clear that the IRA’s drug pricing negotiation provisions will help improve patient outcomes and public health. 

The brief also puts forth evidence disproving false claims that price negotiations will be bad for patients and public health. 

Democracy Forward is representing the coalition on the brief as part of our mission to support public health and evidence-based programs that benefit people and communities. As noted above, this is just one of a number of legal challenges to the price negotiation process working their way through the legal process, and we will continue to make sure the voices and experiences of experts  are heard by the courts.