Trump rule to disclose drug prices blocked by judge

A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s rule requiring drugmakers to publish the list prices of prescription medications in direct-to-consumer television advertisements.

In May, HHS finalized the rule, which was first proposed in October 2018 and fulfills one of President Trump’s goals from his American Patients First blueprint to lower prescription medications. According to U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, HHS “lacks the statutory authority” to adopt the disclosure rule of the wholesale acquisition prices of drugs.

“The rule is therefore invalid,” Mehta wrote in his decision.

The decision stems from a lawsuit launched by the pharmaceutical industry, including drug manufacturers Merck, Eli Lilly, Amgen and the National Association of National Advertisers, to stop the rule from going into effect. The group argued HHS overstepped its authority in finalizing the rule with the new requirements.

HHS claimed its general power under the Social Security Act to implement the rule, though the judge’s ruling sides with the pharmaceutical industry. However, Mehta’s decision does not debate the content of the rule or its potential impact.

“To be clear, the court does not question HHS’s motives in adopting the WAC Disclosure Rule,” the ruling reads. “Nor does it take any view on the wisdom of requiring drug companies to disclose prices. That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs.”

HHS responded that it was “disappointed” with the decision.

“We are disappointed in the court's decision and will be working with the Department of Justice on next steps related to the litigation,” HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said in a statement. “We are not surprised by the objections to transparency from certain special interests.”

While some have argued increasing transparency in the pharma industry could help lower drug prices, the rule to publish prices in TV ads also lacked a punch to the industry.