AARP reinforces support for Medicare price negotiation program


The nation’s leading lobbying group for older Americans is continuing to throw its weight behind the Biden Administration’s Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program, filing an amicus brief Monday urging the federal court to dismiss Merck & Co.’s lawsuit challenging the program.

In an amicus brief response from August, AARP sided against business interests hoping to tear down the program, saying that the new policy could help millions of Americans afford drugs they desperately need.  

AARP’s most recent amicus brief supports HHS against Merck, the manufacturer behind type 2 diabetes medicine Januvia, citing the drug’s list price that has jumped more than 275% since entering the market in 2006 and has accounted for $21.6 billion in Medicare Part D spending between 2017 and May 2023.

“Drug companies like Merck are scrambling to keep the special treatment that allowed them to charge whatever price they wanted at the expense of older people’s health and financial stability," said William Rivera, senior vice president for litigation at AARP Foundation, in a statement. “We cannot let skyrocketing prices stop millions of older adults from accessing affordable medications for chronic conditions.”

AARP rejects any attempts of a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the price negotiation process, saying it would needlessly delay and harm “millions of older people.”

Under the Biden Administration policy, Medicare can directly negotiate the cost of 10 drugs with manufacturers for the first time ever, but pharmaceutical companies launched a blitz of lawsuits hoping to stop the policy from taking effect. The legislation is meant to curb drug prices that have risen 10 times faster than the rate of inflation, AARP has explained. While the IRA provision cannot begin until 2026, a preliminary injunction temporarily halting price negotiation would have recipients wait even longer to receive the benefit.

A 2023 AARP Public Policy Institute report found that pharmaceutical companies have increased the prices of the top 25 Medicare Part D drugs by an average of 226%, and 24 of the drugs exceeded the rate of inflation.

AARP rejects claims from business interests that argue a pricing program would destroy businesses and gives too much power to the government, as well as claiming that the law will support, not stifle, innovation.

“Many older people simply do not have the resources to pay for rapidly escalating drug prices,” AARP said in the filing. “As a result, many are forced to choose between paying for their medication or paying for basic life essentials such as food, housing, or heat. Some older people skip doses, split doses or forego filling their prescriptions altogether to make ends meet. Other people sell everything they own and drain their resources because the price of their medication is beyond their reach.”

The new law gives the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) the power to name 10 prescription drugs subject to negotiations on Sept. 1, with the process beginning Oct. 1. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the Medicare drug price negotiation program will save Medicare and American taxpayers nearly $98.5 billion over 10 years.

If judges issue conflicting rulings around the country, Medicare price negotiation could be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, AARP said in a news release.