Durbin, Klobuchar, Welch, Colleagues File Amicus Brief Urging Court to Uphold Medicare’s Ability to Negotiate Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Durbin: “Big Pharma will do everything they can to line its pockets – including trying to use the court system to block the IRA’s implementation.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Peter Welch (D-VT), and colleagues in filing an amicus brief in Merck & Co. v. Becerra in the District Court for the District of Columbia urging the federal court to uphold the constitutionality of Congress allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for consumers. 

“We’re finally making progress on lowering families’ prescription drug costs with the Inflation Reduction Act and its provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma for lower prices,” said Durbin. “Big Pharma will do everything they can to line their pockets – including trying to use the court system to block the IRA’s implementation. We’re telling the courts: the Medicare prescription drug program is squarely within Congress’s constitutional powers, and it’s working for families.”

“For too long, Americans have paid the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Thanks to legislation we passed to end Big Pharma’s sweetheart deal, Medicare is starting to negotiate lower drug prices for consumers,” said Klobuchar. “It’s no surprise Big Pharma is now trying to stop this in the courts and keep prescription drug prices sky high. We’re fighting back against these absurd lawsuits and we’re not giving up.”

“Merck’s lawsuit is a shameless attempt to use the judiciary to overturn the clearly expressed intent of the legislature and the American people. By allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, the Inflation Reduction Act puts the physical and financial health of patients over corporate profits,” said Welch. “Medicare’s new capacity to negotiate prescription drug prices is bringing Medicare in line with other government agencies like the VA, and it’s just the beginning of our fight. I’m proud to partner with my friend and colleague Senator Klobuchar today, and I will continue to stand up for affordable health care for all Americans.”

Durbin, Klobuchar, and Welch filed the amicus brief with U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Fetterman (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

The amicus brief continues Durbin and Senate Democrats’ efforts to lower prescription drug prices. Last year, Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which included provisions to enable Medicare to negotiate for lower prices with Big Pharma. In August, the Biden administration announced the first ten drugs selected for Medicare price negotiation, which Durbin applauded in a speech on the Senate floor.

An excerpt from the brief is below. The amicus brief is available here.

Merck now attempts to accomplish through judicial action what it could not through the legislative process. Merck’s position in this litigation boils down to the argument that the United States Constitution somehow prohibits the federal government from negotiating the prices of the products it purchases. Merck seeks to prevent reform of a purchasing process that Congress itself made, but now, according to Merck, cannot unmake, or even amend for the benefit of the American public and the American taxpayer. As a matter of constitutional law, that position is baseless. Congress improves laws all the time, and it has the right and indeed the duty to do so. The Program takes nothing from Merck: not its drugs and not its patents. And the Program likewise does not coerce Merck to do or say anything: like every other market participant, it may sell its products at a price the buyer thinks is fair, or it may not.