Appeals Court Declines to Rehear Maryland Drug Pricing Challenge

July 28, 2018
Samantha DiGrande

This week, a federal appeals court declined to hear a petition to rehear a challenge by the Association for Accessible Medicines to a Maryland drug pricing law.

This week, a federal appeals court declined to hear a petition to rehear a challenge by the Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM) to a Maryland drug pricing law, letting the previous ruling stand.

In late April, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh requested that a full federal appeals court rehear the case, saying, “The resolution of this appeal will substantially affect the responses of state governments to a problem with both fiscal and public health dimensions: the rapidly rising cost of prescription drugs.”

The law, passed in 2017 and aimed at combatting increases in the pricing of generic medicines, was deemed unconstitutional in April 2018. The law gave the attorney general the authority to review price information about generic drugs. If the state’s lawyers could show that prices were increasing too steeply, they could seek to order the prices reduced, or issue fines to the drug companies.

AAM filed a suit against the state in a US district court in Maryland last year, alleging that the bill grants the state “unprecedented powers to regulate the national pharmaceutical market, violating the [US] Constitution and posing harm to vulnerable patient communities.”

In reaching the decision to decline rehearing the case, 9 of the 4th Circuit’s judges voted against, 3 judges voted in favor, and 2 judges did not vote.

One of the judges who voted in favor of rehearing the case before the full court, Judge James A. Wynn Jr., wrote that the opinion of the 3-judge panel “materially encroaches” on the state’s ability to pass laws that “protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.”

“At a minimum,” he wrote, the case deserves “the careful deliberation of this entire Court.”

Upon learning that the court had denied rehearing the case, Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the office of the attorney general said, “We are reviewing the decision to determine our next steps.”

According to AAM, Illinois and Louisiana are currently considering legislation modeled after Maryland’s law.