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Judge halts Trump administration rule requiring drug prices in TV ads

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration Monday from implementing a new rule that would require pharmaceutical firms to include the wholesale prices of their drugs in TV advertising, Reuters reports.

The big picture: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced the new rule in May and it was due to take effect on Tuesday. But U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., sided with drugmakers Merck & Co, Eli Lilly and Co and Amgen to halt the HHS rule.

What he's saying: Mehta said in his ruling the court does not question the motives of HHS in adopting the rule, but it doesn't have the authority to drug firms to disclose prices, according to The Hill. "Nor does it take any view on the wisdom of requiring drug companies to disclose prices," he said, per The Hill.

"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. The responsibility rests with Congress to act in the first instance."

Our thought bubble, per Axios' Sara Fischer: TV advertising is an especially important medium for drug companies, which often struggle to advertise on digital channels, due to lengthy side effect disclosure requirements.

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This article has been updated with analysis from Fischer and Judge Mehta's comments.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the gender of the judge.