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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.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO: "It will be terrible" if COVID-19 vaccine prices limit access

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told "Axios on HBO" that it "will be terrible for society" if the price of coronavirus vaccines ever prohibits some people from taking them.

Why it matters: Widespread uptake of the vaccine — which might require annual booster shots — will reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread and mutate, but it's unclear who will pay for future shots or how much they'll cost.