Federal Judge Denies Appeal By Pharmaceuticals Industry, Upholds Alameda County EPR Ordinance
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Posted by: Rachel Rose Belew
Alameda County, Calif.—A 2012 ordinance in Alameda County, California requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay for the collection and safe disposal of consumers’ unused medications remains on track to be implemented, thanks to a federal appeals court ruling issued today.
The ruling is the second strike against the pharmaceutical industry’s lawsuit challenging the County on the grounds that the Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance is unconstitutional. In August 2013, a federal court judge ruled in favor of the county; today’s ruling comes in response to the industry’s appeal of that ruling.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America (PhRMA), the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization filed suit against Alameda County in December 2012, claiming that the ordinance violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commerce Clause forbids state and local governments from enacting regulations that "unduly interfere with interstate commerce."
In today’s 3-0 ruling, Judge N. Randy Smith noted that “the Ordinance neither discriminates against nor directly regulates interstate commerce…because it applies to all manufacturers that make their drugs available in Alameda County—without respect for the geographic location of the manufacturer,” and that the industry, in its appeal, “provided no evidence that the Ordinance will affect the interstate flow of goods.”
Today’s ruling is good news for King County, Washington, which was the second local government in the nation to pass a pharmaceuticals EPR ordinance in June 2013. King County postponed the rollout of its ordinance in the wake of the Alameda County lawsuit.
The ruling could also open doors for other local governments to enact and implement similar extended producer responsibility (EPR) ordinances for pharmaceuticals. However, it is possible that the industry will appeal today’s ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court.