Three drug makers, along with an industry group, filed a lawsuit Friday to stop the Trump administration from requiring pharmaceutical companies to include their list prices in television ads.
In the suit, filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia, Merck, Eli Lilly, Amgen and the Association of National Advertisers say the rule will mislead patients about how much they have to pay for medication and that the Department of Health and Human Services overstepped its authority.
"The impetus for the lawsuit is drug prices in TV ads, but the crux of it is HHS not having the authority to mandate this action," said Eli Lilly in a statement. "Not only does the rule exceed the department's statutory authority and raise freedom of speech concerns, the focus on a medicine's list price creates confusion because it's not the price most patients will pay."
Lowering drug prices has been a central focus of President Donald Trump, as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Experts, however, have questioned the usefulness of providing the list prices of medicine in ads, as most people with insurance pay far less. They fear that advertising list prices may scare patients away from drugs they could actually afford with their health insurance coverage.
Health Secretary Alex Azar served as president of Lilly USA, the company's largest affiliate, before joining the Trump administration. He has since lambasted his former industry peers for high drug costs.
"If the drug companies are embarrassed by their prices or afraid that the prices will scare patients away, they should lower them," Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokeswoman, said in response to the lawsuit. "President Trump and Secretary Azar are committed to providing patients the information they need to make their own informed health care decisions."
The rule, announced last month, is the first to be implemented from the administration's blueprint to lower drug costs, which was released a year ago. It mandates that drug makers include the price for any medication that costs more than $35 for a month's supply or the usual course of treatment. The agency picked that price because it's roughly the average copay for a preferred brand-name drug.
"Requiring the inclusion of drugs' list prices in TV ads is the single most significant step any administration has taken toward a simple commitment: American patients deserve to know the prices of the health care they receive," Azar said at the time.
While the new rule does not have an enforcement mechanism, Azar said failing to include the price would be considered a deceptive trade practice and could prompt lawsuits by industry rivals.