President Donald Trump talks about drug prices during a visit to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington in October. A federal judge on Monday blocked a major White House initiative on prescription drug costs, saying the Trump administration lacked the legal authority to require drugmakers to disclose their prices in TV ads. Susan Walsh/AP
President Donald Trump talks about drug prices during a visit to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington in October. A federal judge on Monday blocked a major White House initiative on prescription drug costs, saying the Trump administration lacked the legal authority to require drugmakers to disclose their prices in TV ads.
A federal judge on Monday stopped a Trump administration initiative that would have required drug makers to reveal the sticker price of their drugs in television ads.
Under the rule, if a medicine’s list price was more than $35 a month, it would have to be stated during the commercial. The challenge opponents say is that a drug’s list price and estimates of what people can expect to pay varies widely depending on coverage.
The rule was blocked hours before it was set to take effect, the latest setback for the White House as Trump administration officials continue to search for ways to pressure pharmaceutical companies into lowering their prices — a proposal made by the Trump administration in the run up to last November’s midterm election.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. ruled that the Health and Human Services Department does not have the regulatory power to make drug manufactures include the cost of drugs in television commercials.
Mehta wrote that in halting the rule, the court was not questioning its wisdom, but rests the issue on the law set by Congress in the first place.
“That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs. But no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized,” Mehta wrote.
Critics pointed out that the rule was toothless, since there was no enforcement mechanism spelled out for when a company did not comply. Instead, the rule relied on the private sector to police itself.
The television-ad rule had the support of both the Trump administration and consumer rights advocates.
That said, patient advocate groups told NPR that while holding drugmakers accountable for prices is welcome, they remained skeptical that drug companies could be shamed, as the administration intended, into lowering their prices.
Last month, groups including drug manufacturers Merck, Eli Lilly and Amgen sued the Trump administration over the rule, arguing that it would violate the companies’ free speech rights.
AARP, which represents older Americans, expressed disappointment on Monday over the court’s ruling.
“Today’s ruling is a step backward in the battle against skyrocketing drug prices and providing more information to consumers,” the group said. “Americans should be trusted to evaluate drug price information and discuss any concerns with their health care providers.”