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Drugmakers sue to block rule requiring drug prices in TV ads

A street sign in front of a building near Amgen headquarters
Amgen is one of 3 drugmakers suing the Trump administration. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Amgen, Eli Lilly, Merck and the Association of National Advertisers are suing the Trump administration over its rule forcing pharmaceutical companies to display drugs' list prices in TV commercials. They say the rule violates the First Amendment and exceeds the government's authority.

The big picture: Experts expected drugmakers to file such a lawsuit — even though the new regulation isn't expected to actually affect drug pricing.

What they're saying: The drug companies argue in their complaint that the rule would have a "misleading effect," because the sticker prices would not represent what patients themselves have to pay.

  • The companies also say the regulation violates their First Amendment rights because the government is compelling "commercial speakers to convey the government's preferred messages" without evidence the speech will "advance a substantial government interest."
  • In a separate statement, Amgen said the rule would not address what most patients want to know: what their out-of-pocket costs will be.

Between the lines: The rule itself is pretty small potatoes, but the lawsuit shows the self-interested goals of each party.

  • The Trump administration likes the rule because it's a talking point to say they are doing something about drug prices, despite federal officials admitting it would have negligible effects on patients and drug spending.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers don't like the rule because it might discourage patients from buying their products. Instead, the companies like to promote how insured patients can get their drugs for free or at a low cost through drug copay cards — which economists agree raise costs and allow drugmakers to charge higher prices.

The bottom line: Even a minor change like this leads to drug industry opposition.