Drug Warfare

A Marin pharmacist sticks up for the little guys, and gets run over

"What we need are things like penicillin, ampicillin, and tetracycline [antibiotics]."

More importantly, however, Mayer objected to the settlement because it lacks a mandate for the drug companies to change their behavior.

"It's all about money," says Mayer. "It's not about solving problems or getting them to reduce the price of prescription drugs."

The drug companies basically will pay out the California settlement without having to admit wrongdoing. But plaintiffs' lawyers contend that the settlement is a good deal for consumers, and that the price issue has already been addressed. The federal settlement in Chicago, which involved many of the same pharmaceutical companies, included a provision that the companies begin offering the same bulk discounts to pharmacies as they offer to the HMOs.

Mayer gave the court a piece of his mind at the April 21 settlement hearing, which was attended by enough attorneys to fill a whole hallway of courtrooms. But his objections were to no avail. The settlement stands, unless someone decides to appeal. Mayer says his group is tapped out, having already spent about $2 million in legal fees.

"I have to disagree with his [Mayer's] position," says Joshua Davis, a plaintiff's attorney in the San Francisco settlement. "What Mayer really argued was that they [the drugs] are not appropriate for the particular clinics where he has worked.

"We had pharmacists who buy for Los Angeles County, in the East Bay, and another pharmacist who buys psychiatric medications involved in the settlement negotiations. We wanted what clinics across the state can use," Davis says. "I think it's a very successful outcome."

The San Francisco courtroom drama, which was presided over by Judge Alfred Chiantelli, was not without some interesting plot twists. When Mayer testified before the judge in February, his comments somehow were left out of the official court record. After much speculation between attorneys, Chiantelli officially chalked up the mystery to a court-reporting error. It seems few were paying attention to David anymore.

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