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US Judge blocks Trump administration law requiring pharma to include prices in TV ads

Published on 09/07/19 at 11:05am

A judge has blocked the Trump administration from enacting a law that would require pharmaceutical companies to include the prices of their drugs in TV ads.

On 8 July 2019, District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, DC ruled in favour of pharma giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and MSD in preventing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) new law from taking effect.

Previously scheduled to come into effect on Tuesday, drugmakers objected to the rule on the grounds that including the price of their drugs in adverts on TV would confuse customers as the wholesale price on display would not be relevant to patients with insurance.

Last month Amgen, Eli Lilly and MSD sued the Trump administration on the grounds that the HHS does not have the legal authority to force pharmaceutical companies to include drug prices in TV ads as it would violate their right to freedom of speech.

The US government countered, saying that a precedent had been set in 1985 when the US Supreme Court ruled that the government can force advertisers to disclose factual, non-controversial information in their ads.

However US District Judge Mehta ruled in favour of pharma in stating that the HHS did not have the authority to force drugmakers to include prices in TV ads and that doing so would violate the firms’ First Amendment rights. “[…] no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized,” Mehta said.

“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,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

Louis Goss

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