In September, a federal judge set back drugmakers' efforts to avoid picking up the tab for drug-disposal schemes when he ruled in favor of Alameda County. Having failed in California, the lobbying juggernaut is trying to stop biopharma-funded disposal schemes spreading up the coast to Seattle.
The latest case centers on King County, a region of Washington that in June passed a drug disposal law modeled on practices in Alameda County. And as in Alameda County, PhRMA and other biopharma trade groups are resisting the law by suing King County. The trade organizations say the law is unconstitutional because in shifting the cost of setting up and running the drug-disposal program from local government to national drugmakers, it affects interstate commerce.
As the law contains no price premium on drugs to cover the expenses, the industry argues the rest of the U.S. will pay for the local initiative. The argument has found little favor among King County lawmakers. As Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin sees it, the situation is clear. "If you produce the product, you have a responsibility for what happens to it afterward," Conlin told The Seattle Times. A federal judge also dismissed the argument. This Alameda County precedent makes King County confident it can win the case.
The setting of a precedent is exactly what PhRMA and its allies feared, and why they fought hard to stop the Alameda County law that will cost them just $330,000 a year. Scaled up across the country, take-back schemes would become a more significant drain on drugmakers. The industry thinks fees imposed on the local sale of drugs should fund the program. "They want to impose those costs not on sales in King County, but on patients and consumers located elsewhere," PhRMA's general counsel Mit Spears said.