Some PhRMA members, Merck included, are taking a PhRMA promoted stand -- that they will no longer offer "patient assistance" money -- to Obamacare participants. While it is true that the law is unclear, and in flux, at the moment, the GC of PhRMA sounds a bit like Lady MacBeth here.
How so? Well, the proof is that Amgen -- and five other of the major PhRMA members -- will still offer patient assistance while the rules get sorted out. [Pfizer and AbbVie won't disclose what they intend to do.]
The genuinely-arguable issue here is that -- as to people receiving Medicare and/or Medicaid or the federal exchange coverage, the patient assistance money might -- MIGHT(!) -- be deemed a prohibited "kickback" of some ill-defined sort -- until the rules are really, and finally, cleaned up. But the wiser advice (IMHO) would be to accept that helping the poorest Americans won't be deemed a crime -- specific intent to violate the law is a constitutional element of any such criminal charge. And intent to help patients stay on meds is not intent to pay kickbacks. Q.E.D.
It seems the majority of "the majors" agree with my advice. Amgen, Novartis AG, Sanofi, Eli Lilly & Co., Gilead Sciences Inc. and Johnson & Johnson among them. Here is the Bloomberg piece -- do read it all:
. . . .Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, is the world's fifth-largest drugmaker by market capitalization, while Glaxo, based in London, is the seventh-biggest. New York-based Pfizer Inc., the world's fourth-largest, and AbbVie Inc., based in North Chicago, Illinois, declined to disclose what they're doing.
Amgen, meanwhile, is joined by Novartis AG, Sanofi, Eli Lilly & Co., Gilead Sciences Inc. and Johnson & Johnson as companies that said in interviews they'll continue the practice. . . .
True enough -- it is a shade of gray, at the moment -- but PhRMA is willing to use it, wantonly -- to bludgeon the government. And they are doing so by smacking the nation's poorest sick people in the head, with that "yank the money" club. Ugly. That's just a little beyond the pale, where I come from.