Hundreds of the 1,199 SEIU health care workers marched and picketed to block Third Street as some were arrested. They protested Medicare cuts to Governor Cathy Hochul’s Medicare budget.
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Medicare said Friday it would allow drug companies to publicly discuss historical drug price negotiations for the program, ignoring a confidentiality requirement that the industry has argued violates the First Amendment in lawsuits filed this month.
In initial guidance issued in March, Medicare prohibited the industry from publicly disclosing information about the low price the federal government initially offered for targeted drugs under the program, as well as the government’s reasons for choosing that price point.
Medicare also prohibited the companies from disclosing any oral conversations during the negotiation period. It also requires companies to destroy any information within 30 days if the property is no longer selected for negotiations.
In revised guidance issued Friday, Medicare said the company “may choose to publicly disclose information related to ongoing negotiations at its discretion.”
The Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year, allowed Medicare to negotiate prices directly with drug companies for the first time. The program is a mainstay of the Biden administration’s efforts to control rising drug prices in the United States
merckAmerican Chamber of Commerce, Bristol-Myers Squibb The drug industry lobby group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers in America asked federal courts this month to declare drug price negotiations unconstitutional.
Merck, Chamber, and Bristol Myers Squibb argued in their lawsuits that Medicare had imposed a gag order effectively banning companies from publicly disagreeing with the federal government’s position in violation of the First Amendment.
However, the industry lawsuits also focus on broader allegations that the software violates due process and expropriation of private property without fair compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra pledged on Friday to press ahead with negotiations despite lawsuits from the drug industry.
“Pharmaceutical companies have achieved record profits for decades,” Becerra said in a statement. “They are now lining up to block the work of this administration to negotiate better drug prices for our families.
“We will not back down,” Becerra said.
HHS will release a list of 10 high-cost drugs it has selected for negotiation by September. The companies have to decide whether to participate in the negotiations in the following month.
Drug makers who choose not to participate face severe financial penalties. They can avoid these penalties by ending their participation in Medicare and Medicaid drug discount programs.
The companies have argued that opting out of rebate programs is not a feasible alternative because the programs account for nearly half of the state’s annual spending on prescription drugs.