For about two weeks in June, the Nevada chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, had a television ad up in the Las Vegas and Reno markets. At a cost of over half a million dollars, the ad from the union of government workers skewered Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt for cozying up to drug companies.
In 2017, Nevada passed a law to help put a lid on rising diabetes drug prices. Two major pharmaceutical trade groups sued to block it. Attorney General Laxalt’s office has been defending the measure and the AFSCME ad said he slacked off.
"Laxalt tried to cut a deal with big pharma instead of standing up for us, and drug prices continue to rise," the ad said. "Adam Laxalt delivered for drug companies, not for us."
Legally, it is premature to say Laxalt delivered for anybody, because both sides are waiting for a judge to rule. In the same vein, the law won’t fully kick in until Jan. 15, 2019, so it is too early to fault it for not controlling drug prices.
That leaves whether Laxalt "tried to cut a deal with big pharma" as the key claim to check.
AFSCME sent us their supporting evidence. It was a September court filing that said the two sides had failed to settle before bringing the matter before a judge. (The defendant in the case is Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. The plaintiffs are the drug trade associations Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Biotechnology Innovation Organization. )
"The parties’ counsel discussed a potential resolution to avoid this motion," the filing said. "But on Sept. 12, 2017, defendants’ counsel advised that defendant Sandoval would prefer that plaintiffs proceed with the filing of a motion."
To AFSCME, the discussion of a "resolution" amounted to trying to cut a deal.
But that interpretation goes way beyond what the words mean, University of Nevada law professor Thomas Main told us.
"That sort of phrasing is common in these filings," Main said. "I wouldn't read much, or anything, into that alone."
Main noted that state and federal court rules require both sides to try to settle out of court. Basically, if the parties can avoid tying up court time, they should do so.
The rules say the parties must talk to each other and if they fail to come to terms, they must certify that they "were unable to resolve or narrow the dispute without court intervention."
And that’s what the words in the court filing do.
Interestingly, Laxalt’s campaign staff pointed to the same words in the same document to show that he didn’t cut a deal with the drug company representatives. If he had, the case would have settled, and it hasn’t.
A union health fund attempted to join the suit on the side of the state on the grounds that Laxalt hadn’t filed a vigorous response to the drug makers’ suit. The judge in the case turned the group down.
The AFSCME ad puts Laxalt at the center of the discussions with the drug trade groups. Actually, he left that to others in his office.
Laxalt spokesman Parker Briden told us that he hadn’t participated, and a Deputy Attorney General confirmed that. He was not on the phone calls with the drug company lawyers.
That further undercuts the assertion that he tried to cut a deal.
The union noted that Laxalt received campaign contributions from drug maker Eli Lilly. Eli Lilly gave $3,100. The company sells drugs for treating diabetes covered by the state’s pricing transparency law.
An ad from the AFSCME union said Laxalt tried to cut a deal with drug makers. The only evidence that Laxalt’s office attempted to settle a suit brought by drug trade groups is a court filing that certifies that the parties failed to come to terms.
That interpretation ignores that court rules require the parties to see if they can settle out of court, and to certify that they tried and and failed. The ad puts far too much weight on legal boilerplate, a Nevada law professor said.
On top of that, Laxalt did not personally participate in those early discussions between his office and the drug makers’ lawyers.
We rate this claim False.
AFSCME, Bubble, June 6, 2018
Nevada Legislature, SB539, accessed June 21, 2018
Court Listener, Docket for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America v. Brian Sandoval, accessed June 21, 2018
United States District Court of Nevada, Motion for preliminary injunction, Sept. 13, 2017
United States District Court of Nevada, Local rules of practice, May 1, 2016
Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Drug transparency, accessed June 21, 2018
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Federal judge refuses to halt diabetes drug transparency law, Oct. 17, 2017
Hyman, Phelps and McNamara, Nevada Transparency Bill Targets Diabetes Drugs and Payments to Health Care Providers, June 20, 2017
Fenmore Craig, Government affairs update, Sept. 7, 2017
Nevada Independent, In lawsuit, Big Pharma argues Nevada law creates effective cap on insulin prices, Sept. 6, 2017
Nevada Independent, Union ad attacks Laxalt for handling of Big Pharma lawsuit over insulin transparency law, June 6, 2018
Nevada Independent, Labor health fund says Attorney General, legislature could effectively eviscerate insulin transparency law, Oct. 15, 2017
United States District Court of Nevada, Culinary Health Fund ruling, Nov. 6, 2017
Interview, Linda Anderson, chief deputy Attorney General, Office of Attorney General for the State of Nevada, June 25, 2018
Email interview, Thomas Main, law professor, Boyd Law School, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, June 22, 2018
Email interview, Parker Briden, communications director, Laxalt for Nevada, June 21, 2018
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