Wall Street Journal: Opinion: Bad Drug Trip in Alameda

An important commerce case for the Supreme Court.

Wall Street Journal Opinion, May 17, 2015

California is the island of Dr. Moreau among the laboratories of democracy, and on Thursday the Supreme Court can decide to put down one of the state’s more unfortunate legal creations. To wit, can the Bay Area county of Alameda regulate the national U.S. drug market?

The pharmaceutical and biotech lobbies are asking the Court to hear PhRMA v. Alameda, which challenges a drug take-back ordinance that the county enacted in 2012. A speculative fear among California greens is that traces of unused medicines that are thrown out or flushed are contaminating the water supply. The Alameda program requires all drug makers to fund and operate a county-wide disposal program, wherever they are headquartered in the world, as long as their products find their way into Alameda through interstate commerce.

Alameda is well within its rights to pass new drug taxes within its borders to finance a take-back program, or raise some other general tax. And it did that years ago. But the new law’s chief sponsor said the problem with that program is “that the taxpayers pay for it.” So Alameda decided to offload the cost for these local benefits onto out-of-state consumers and business. The law expressly prohibits drug makers from charging an extra Alameda fee and exempts local pharmacies.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.