Press Release
January 8th, 2018
A Big Pharma-funded charity that helps patients pay for drugs just sued the government

A charity that helps patients pay for expensive prescription drugs is suing the federal government over what it alleges are unlawful federal restrictions that put a “stranglehold” on its ability to communicate with donors — which happen to be pharmaceutical companies that sell expensive drugs.

Patient-assistance charities have become a mainstay of drug companies’ efforts to ensure patients can afford their products. It’s a circular kind of philanthropy: Drug companies give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to independent nonprofits, which in turn provide financial assistance for patients’ drug co-pays or other medical expenses.

Due to the potentially fraught nature of the relationship, the charities are regulated by the government to ensure that they operate independently and don’t fall afoul of a federal anti-kickback law.

In its lawsuit Monday, Patient Services Inc. (PSI) alleges that federal oversight of its charity has grown, violating its free speech rights and posing a threat to its existence. The charity argues the government is limiting its ability to have basic conversations or communications with donors.

“These restrictions violate our First Amendment right; they prohibit us from communicating truthful and nonmisleading information,” said Neil Millhiser, general counsel of PSI, which offers support to patients with a wide array of illnesses, including rare diseases and cancers. “That impedes our ability to help these patients out.”

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