PhRMA dealt another legal blow in fight against drug disposal law

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit--Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The long-running campaign by the pharma industry to avoid picking up the tab for Alameda County's drug disposal program has been dealt another legal setback. Now, with a federal appeals court having upheld the original decision in favor of Alameda County, PhRMA, BIO and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) must decide whether to take their case to the Supreme Court.

PhRMA and its collaborators first took legal action in December 2012 in an attempt to overturn a law that makes manufacturers pay for the disposal of unused and expired drugs in Alameda County. A federal judge ruled in favor of Alameda County in September 2013, a decision that the appeals court unanimously upheld this week. The next step in the legal ladder is the Supreme Court and PhRMA is yet to rule out a further escalation of its case.

"[We're] reviewing our legal options," PhRMA EVP and general counsel Mit Spears told Pharmalot. The trade group still argues the Alameda County scheme is unconstitutional because it puts the burden of paying for a local program on out-of-state businesses. "[This] is not an appropriate way to address any of the problems associated with the misuse of prescription medicines," Spears said. So far PhRMA and its allies have failed to convince the legal system of the validity of their argument.

In isolation the stakes in Alameda County are fairly low, with local officials estimating the program will cost each manufacturer up to $12,000 a year. The costs could rise quickly if other counties--or whole states--implement similar programs, but this is yet to happen. Plans for a disposal program covering all of California never made it past the state's Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. The author of the dropped bill plans to try again next year.

- read Pharmalot's article