Pfizer has accused the Texas Health and Human Services Commission of violating federal law by handing over the company's drug pricing information to state legislators, and is suing the agency to ensure the data aren't leaked again.
So far this year, the Texas agency has allegedly handed over Pfizer's drug pricing data to two Texas Senate committee heads, stoking Pfizer's fears that the information could get leaked and jeopardize their complex and secretive pricing and discount programs.
Pfizer has to give the Texas commission drug price information as part of the state's Medicaid program. But that information, considered a trade secret in the pharmaceutical industry, isn't supposed to be handed over to legislators, according to federal law. The complaint alleges that HHSC initially rebuffed a request from the chair of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee for information and offered only de-identified examples of drug prices, but it gave more specific information months later when pressed, with support from the Texas Attorney General. That senate committee is responsible for the state Medicaid program's budget.
The attorney general stated in a letter that the disclosure was required under Texas law. But Pfizer maintains that it violated federal law by giving legislators confidential information and by failing to tell the company about the disclosure.
“This is a situation that is capable of repetition, but evading review,” Pfizer said in its complaint and alleged if the information gets leaked, that could be detrimental to Texas' Medicaid program.
Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, which sells the high-priced and commonly prescribed pain medication Lyrica, often give federal health programs cheaper prices on drugs than are available to other programs. Rather than charge set rates to all customers, drugmakers use rebates to come up with individualized prices for larger and small purchasers. A Pfizer spokesman told Stat news that last year, the company paid about $4.6 billion in rebates to Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurers.
But drug pricing has become a hot-button issue in recent years, and there have been congressional inquiries into the cost of Mylan's EpiPen and other pharmaceutical products. Those inquiries and wider dissemination of drug pricing information could lead to higher costs for federal and state health programs, Pfizer alleged.
“If public disclosure were to lead to uniform pricing, the low rates that Texas Medicaid enjoys would disappear,” according to the complaint. “Similarly, the purpose of competitive bidding would be defeated.”