A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated a rule that was scheduled to come into effect on July 9 requiring direct-to-consumer television advertisements for some prescription medicines covered by Medicare or Medicaid to include the list price. Judge Amit Mehta determined that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lacked authority from congress to compel drug manufacturers to disclose list prices.
Specifically, under the rule, which was first proposed last year, adverts for drugs would have been required to include the wholesale acquisition cost if it is equal to or greater than $35 for a month’s supply or the usual course of therapy. The legislation was challenged by Amgen, Eli Lilly and Merck & Co., alongside the trade group Association Of National Advertisers, with the parties arguing that the rule would confuse consumers by forcing them to disclose a price irrelevant to patients with insurance.
While Mehta agreed that disclosing list prices might be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs, he said “no matter how vexing the problem…may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorised,” adding “the responsibility rests with Congress to act in the first instance.”
In response to the decision, White House spokesman Judd Deere remarked “it is outrageous that an Obama appointed judge sided with big PhRMA to keep high drug prices secret from the American people, leaving patients and families as the real victims.” Meanwhile, HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said the administration “will be working with the Department of Justice on next steps related to the litigation.”
Mehta’s ruling comes shortly after President Donald Trump said that his administration is preparing an executive order under which the US would pay no more for drugs than the country with the lowest prescription prices. The move follows a proposal last year, currently under review by the federal government, aimed at lowering certain prescription drug costs by basing Medicare Part B payments on an international pricing index.