Bipartisan Attorneys General combat abusive pharmacy benefit practices

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is leading a bipartisan coalition of 35 attorneys general from across the country in an amicus brief to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting Oklahoma’s laws that regulate abusive behavior of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

Oklahoma’s laws regulating PBMs are similar to those in other states and they are being challenged in the latest of a string of lawsuits by the industry’s national lobbying association, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA).

Ellison and the bipartisan coalition he is leading seek to protect consumers by assuring that all states can regulate third-party administrators that are primarily responsible for processing and paying prescription drug claims for commercial health plans, self-insured employer plans, Medicare Part D, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and state government employee insurance systems.

“The fact that a bipartisan coalition of 34 Republican and Democratic attorneys general came together to support Oklahoma in this fight is another sign that there is broad support across the country for regulating PBMs and bringing down the unconscionably high price of prescription drugs,” said Ellison. “We know what needs to be done: we need the political will to do it.”

Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress and as the Minnesota Attorney General, he led the prosecution team that won the conviction of ex-Minneapolis law enforcement officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man whose death sparked worldwide protests against police brutality.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association appealed the PCMA v. Mulready decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to the 10th Circuit.

The district court found that Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempted none of the challenged provisions of Oklahoma’s Patient’s Right to Pharmacy Choice Act, thus reinforcing the state’s broad authority when it comes to regulating PBM practices in Oklahoma.

PCMA claimed the law is preempted by both Medicare Part D and ERISA.

The case is the second dispute to reach a federal court of appeals since the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in Rutledge v. PCMA in 2020 that PBMs cannot evade state consumer protection regulations under the cloak of ERISA preemption.  A bipartisan coalition of 46 attorneys general supported Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Carol Rutledge in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court.  

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