Drug Giants Score a Win Against the Trump Administration
Health Care

Drug Giants Score a Win Against the Trump Administration


A federal judge on Monday blocked a Trump administration rule requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose the wholesale prices of their drugs in television ads. 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.

In a lawsuit filed last month by drugmakers Merck, Eli Lilly and Amgen as well as a trade group for advertisers, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services does not have the authority from Congress to force drugmakers to disclose their prices.

“That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs,” the judge wrote. “But no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized. The responsibility rests with Congress to act in the first instance.”

Why it matters: The ruling is a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to bring down drug prices and increase transparency around health care costs.

The television ad rule would have been the first key element of the administration’s proposed prescription-pricing blueprint to take effect — and the most visible.

Why it might not matter: Some experts have questioned just how effective the rule would be in pushing down costs. Critics noted, for example, that it would have allowed the industry to police itself, with no other enforcement mechanism. Drugmakers and others also warned that having list prices in ads could scare patients away from taking medications they need, even as they might not have to pay that advertised price if they have insurance.

What’s next: HHS said that it was disappointed in the court’s decision and would work with the Department of Justice on next steps. And, according to Bloomberg, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters Tuesday that the administration may continue to fight for the rule in court.