It all started with a battle over information: In one corner was the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In the other were Texas lawmakers.
The commission holds the details of the state’s Medicaid contracts with large pharmaceutical companies, which show how much the state is spending on medicine. The commission assured lawmakers the state is getting a good deal, but the legislators wanted to see for themselves. In particular, they wanted to know the amount the state was getting back in rebates for name-brand medicine.
Leading the charge was state Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown). He’s the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and he says that information is vital for legislative analysis.
“Right now it’s somewhat nebulous and opaque with not having sure certainty regarding what actually is costing the taxpayers of Texas,” he says. “So I’m trying to find out the balance between what type of prescription drug benefit plan and the cost of it, and how to manage it more effectively and efficiently.”
But when Schwertner first asked for those numbers to be handed over, the Commission told him no. It said that data was proprietary information, and not even lawmakers could get ahold of it.
That’s when things started to get messy.
The tug-of-war went back and forth: the Texas Attorney General’s office got involved and eventually ruled in favor of the lawmakers, saying the Commission needed to fork over the rebate info. Issue settled, right? Wrong.
A third party has entered into the fray: Pfizer.
Medical giant Pfizer has filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General’s office. According to court documents obtained by the Texas Standard, Pfizer says the state shouldn’t have handed over the company’s protected information to lawmakers.
Pfizer says it was never properly warned that the information was up for grabs, and therefore never had a chance to weigh in on the Attorney General’s decision. The Attorney General’s office has remained silent on the pending litigation.
If a court does rule in favor of Pfizer, it could end up stopping further Medicaid rebate information from getting into the hands of lawmakers. It could also mean that information already released would need to be returned to the confines of the Health and Human Services Commission.