Published: Wed, July 10, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Drug Price Television-Ad Rule

Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Drug Price Television-Ad Rule

The lawsuit alleged that HHS lacked authority to issue the rule and that it violated drugmakers' free-speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The new policy, which would have applied to drugs with a list price of more than $35 a month, had been set to take effect today.

Judge Amit Mehta sided with the pharmaceutical companies and stated, "HHS can not do more than what Congress has authorized". "But no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS can not do more than what Congress has authorized", Mehta wrote.

Mehta said he wasn't questioning the agency's motives in adopting the rule, which could well be effective in halting the rising price of prescription drugs. But that could change if Congress acts.

Critics say the rule, if implemented, would not have made a material impact on pricing anyway since there was no enforcement mechanism for scofflaws.

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The lawsuit against the TV ad rule was filed in June by Merck, Eli Lilly, Amgen and the Association of National Advertisers, which said the rule would mislead patients about how much they have to pay for medication and that the department had exceeded its authority.

HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said the administration was disappointed by the ruling and "will be working with the Department of Justice on next steps related to the litigation". Trump has said he is drawing up an executive order that includes a clause that would match the price of drugs in the U.S. to the lowest among a list of 'favoured nations'. Trump administration officials have searched for ways to make good on some of the president's 2016 campaign promises, including one to reduce drug prices.

Placing prices in direct-to-consumer (DTC) TV ads was just one of a basket of measures proposed by Trump in his American Patients First blueprint published a year ago, along with seeking an end to the rebate system for medicines to prevent middlemen taking a cut of the price, and requiring hospitals and insurers to disclose negotiated rates for services. According to the court, the SSA's text, structure, and content provided no evidence of Congress's intent to empower HHS with adopting the Wholesale Acquisition Cost Disclosure Rule.

A White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement obtained by Reuters the ruling is "outrageous", especially from an "Obama appointed judge". Disclosing list prices or general data doesn't help most Americans since their rates are determined by their insurance - and deductibles - so this information will not tell them much about what they are on the hook for and could even dissuade them from pursuing care.

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