Trump's effort to put drug prices in ads now in limbo

Judge blocks Trump administration's move to require drug prices in TV ads

A federal judge ruled Monday to block the Trump administration from forcing pharmaceutical companies to list the prices of medication in television advertisements, stating the Department of Health and Human Services lacks the authority from Congress to regulate drug marketing. The rule had been slated to take effect today, July 9. The statement added the ruling sides with big pharma and the leaves "patients and families as the real victims".

The administration has the option to appeal the ruling in the case, and Judge Mehta also signaled that Congress could resolve the issue by explicitly giving HHS the authority to require drug price disclosure.

The Final Rule required direct-to-consumer television advertisements to include the list price of prescription drugs and biological products distributed in the United States that are reimbursable by Medicare or Medicaid, whether directly or indirectly.

"That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs", Mehta wrote. The rule required disclosure of drugs that cost more than $35 per month.

"We are not surprised by the objections to transparency from certain special interests, putting drug prices in ads is a useful way to put patients in control and lower costs", said HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley.

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"The impetus for the lawsuit is drug prices in TV ads, but the crux of it is HHS not having the authority to mandate this action", Eli Lilly said. The largest industry lobbying group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), said that the list prices could be confusing for patients and discourage them from seeking medical care.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former executive at Eli Lilly, which filed the lawsuit along with industry peers Merck and Amgen, said when the administration announced the plan two months ago that consumers would "have vastly more information to choose among different therapies and pick the most affordable one".

Drugmakers have long argued that list prices do not reflect out-of-pocket costs for most US consumers or take into account the actual prices paid after discounts and rebates negotiated with health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to ensure patient access to the medicines. The companies also contended the rule was "compelled speech" that would have violated their First Amendment rights.

The U.S. Justice Department defended the rule in court, saying it met a standard the U.S. Supreme Court set in 1985, when it held the government could force advertisers to disclose factual, non-controversial information.

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