ACP Advocacy in the Courts Ensures Patient and Physician Perspectives Represented in Important Legal Decisions

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In recent months, ACP has filed briefs in cases on Medicare prescription drug negotiation, reproductive health, gender-affirming care and firearm violence prevention

Feb. 23, 2024 (ACP) -- As important health care issues are increasingly being litigated in the nation's courts, the American College of Physicians is ensuring patients and physicians have a voice in case decisions through judicial advocacy.

"We want to ensure that the perspective and expertise of internal medicine physicians and their patients are being conveyed in these legal decisions and judicial proceedings impacting the practice of medicine and the health of the public," said Josh Serchen, ACP associate for health policy.

In early 2024, for example, ACP joined legal briefs that support Medicare's bid to negotiate the prices of 10 leading drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are challenging the move in court, and ACP wants to ensure judges understand the College's position.

ACP argues that the rising cost of prescription drugs has substantial and escalating negative impacts on public health and patient outcomes in the legal briefs. They further argue that this negotiation program is a vital first step in ensuring the health of Americans and sustaining the Medicare program.

In recent months, ACP has also filed briefs in important cases regarding reproductive health, gender-affirming care and firearm violence prevention. In states with abortion restriction laws, ACP has cited its extensive policy on access to reproductive health in briefs arguing that the laws prevent patients from obtaining necessary care and undermine the patient-physician relationship.

As Serchen noted, "with historic levels of partisanship and gridlock at the federal level preventing Congress from legislating, much of the policymaking on some of the most pertinent issues of our time is being conducted by state legislatures and governors. We are seeing many of these state-level policies being challenged in the courts. At the same time, in the absence of federal legislative action, the president and executive agencies have increasingly resorted to executive actions and the rulemaking process to enact policy change, methods that are ripe for legal challenge."

As a strategy to influence courts' decisions, ACP frequently turns to the legal briefs known as amicus curiae ("friend of the court"). In several recent high-profile cases, ACP has signed onto briefs that express perspectives in support of patients and physicians.

"Courts do read these briefs, and they have tangible impacts on the outcomes of cases," Serchen said. "On numerous occasions, judges have referenced briefs that ACP has been part of in justifying their decisions."

Sometimes, ACP leads the charge, as with the recent Medicare prescription drug negotiation cases. At other times, organizations ask ACP to join their amicus briefs.

"Filing amicus briefs is resource-intensive and requires a legal team to prepare a well-researched document containing a sound and strongly supported argument that cites pertinent case law," Serchen said. "As such, we often undertake amicus brief efforts in coalition with other medical and public health stakeholders in order to maximize impact."

ACP will only join amicus briefs for which it has sufficient existing policy on the books.

"Staff and College leadership will review the briefs, analyze the facts of the case and the political and social context under which the case came to be filed and reconcile the arguments of the brief with existing ACP policy," Serchen said.

More Information

Information about recent briefs filed on behalf of ACP can be found on the ACP website.

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