WASHINGTON – In a preliminary victory for consumers, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-to-3 decision, has lifted the injunction that had put Maine’s innovative effort to reduce the cost of prescription drugs on hold.

Drug manufacturers had filed suit to stop the Maine Rx program, which, if implemented, would lead to lower prices for 325,000 of the state’s uninsured residents. The Court’s decision allows the plan to move forward.

Under the plan, Maine would use its collective buying power to require pharmaceutical companies to negotiate price rebates similar to those under the Medicaid program. Companies refusing to agree to the rebates would have their products held back from the marketplace pending “further evaluation.” Companies are furiously resisting this.

The Court’s verdict may have a large impact nationally. Twenty-nine states filed friends of the court briefs on Maine’s behalf, and this year alone legislators in 18 states have sponsored bills to create drug discount programs similar to Maine’s.

Despite the strong ruling in favor of Maine’s Rx program, at this point the future of similar programs is still unclear. Time will only tell if large drug manufacturers will succeed in their efforts to pass federal legislation that will preempt state programs.

Bruce Vinary, an attorney for the AARP, told the World the Maine Rx decision is a good first step, showing that programs to reduce medication prices are not unconstitutional. He said the court decision will lead to reduced prices when the program takes effect in Maine.

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