Published Online: Monday, October 1, 2007

Plans to promote increased use of lower-cost generic drugs have hit a legal speed bump in Suffolk County, NY, where a local government employees' union has filed suit to derail the initiative. The plan, which county officials predict could save millions of dollars for local taxpayers, would slice the copay that Suffolk's 10,500 employees and retirees pay for prescriptions from $10 to $5 if a generic is dispensed instead of a branded version.

Although the program appears to be a win-win for both county workers and taxpayers, union officials at the Association of Municipal Employees filed suit to block the initiative because they were not consulted about the change in advance. A Suffolk County supreme court judge ordered the county to delay implementation of the copay reductions, pending further hearings on the union's request for a permanent injunction.

For their part, county officials responsible for the proposal say it is inconceivable that union bosses would seek to block a program that could cut prescription costs by as much as 50% for their own members while saving Suffolk County taxpayers $12 million annually.

Even if the court rules against the union's request for a permanent ban on the program, however, further delays in implementing the generic discounts are likely, as the issue will then have to work its way through the arbitration process.

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