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THE NATION

Court Backs Michigan Drug Plan for Poor

January 18, 2002|From Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan appeals court cleared the way Thursday for a sweeping new plan to hold down state spending on prescription drugs for the poor.

The Michigan Court of Appeals lifted a lower court judge's order blocking the plan. It can now take effect Feb. 1.

The state plan--one of the biggest attempts in the nation to cut drug costs--lets doctors prescribe only certain discounted medications to the 1.6 million low-income patients who rely on state aid in Michigan, including Medicaid and programs for infants and the elderly. Doctors must get authorization for medications not on the list.

Pharmaceutical companies sued over the plan, saying it would limit patients' access to certain drugs. Among the drugs not on the list are Ritalin, the antidepressant Prozac and the antibiotic Cipro.

On Jan. 7, state Circuit Judge Lawrence Glazer blocked the plan, saying the state overstepped its authority because it did not get approval from the Legislature. But the appeals court said it is not convinced that a delay is needed to protect patients.

"We are extremely pleased to move forward with our efforts to offer high-quality health care to low-income Michigan citizens while prudently managing costs," said James Haveman, director of the state Department of Community Health.

Bruce Lott, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said: "We are disappointed that patients could be subjected to procedures that could be harmful to them, but we're confident we'll make that case in court."

The state has said that it spends about $1 billion a year on drugs for Medicaid and other health care programs, and that the new plan would save at least $42 million this year.

Pharmaceutical companies were angered by the list of preferred drugs, which was developed by a team of 11 doctors and pharmacists chosen by Gov. John Engler.

The companies were not consulted about the list and were then told they would have to provide discounts or risk having their drugs removed from it.

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