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Federal Judge Blocks Big Pharma Attempt to Stop Medicare Drug Price Negotiation

The judge noted that drug companies are not forced to participate in Medicare.

A truck with an ad that calls on keeping drug prices low is parked during a rally in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on August 16, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

A federal judge in Ohio on Friday blocked an attempt by corporate interests to stop Medicare’s historic negotiation of certain drug prices with pharmaceuticals.

Medicare gained the power to negotiate drug prices as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), but the several industry groups and drug makers have sued to forestall the program, arguing that it is unconstitutional, CNN explained. One of those groups was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which filed its lawsuit in June. The Ohio judge Friday rejected its request for a preliminary injunction to block the program before October 1, the date by which pharmaceuticals must agree to negotiate or not.

“This is the first major blow to Big Pharma in its legal battles to block the drug price negotiation provisions under the Inflation Reduction Act,” Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at Public Citizen, said in a statement.

“The Chamber’s lawsuit lacks merit,” Maybarduk contined. “The court made the right decision not to grant the injunction, which would have caused needless patient suffering and treatment rationing.”

Judge Michael Newman of the Southern District of Ohio, a Trump appointee, ruled that the chamber “demonstrated neither a strong likelihood of success nor irreparable harm,” as CNBC reported.

“Consequently, their request for immediate preliminary injunctive relief… is denied,” Newman concluded.

Newman also rejected the Biden administration’s request to dismiss the case. Instead, he gave the Chamber of Commerce until October 13 to answer some questions about its argument and the administration until October 27 to renew its motion to dismiss.

While the chamber had argued the negotiation program was unconstitutional for multiple reasons, Newman pointed out that drug companies are not forced to participate in Medicare.

“As there is no constitutional right (or requirement) to engage in business with the government, the consequences of that participation cannot be considered a constitutional violation,” he said.

The Biden administration celebrated the news.

“Today’s ruling from the Southern District of Ohio affirms that Medicare will move forward with negotiating lower prices for millions of seniors,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “And, the Biden-Harris Administration won’t stop fighting for what we know to be true: that nothing in the Constitution prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices.”

The administration announced the first 10 drugs to be subject to negotiations in August. They included the blood-clot treatment Eliquis, Jardiance, Xarelto, Januvia, Farxiga, Entresto, Enbrel, Imbruvica, Stelara, and several Novo Nordisk insulins, according to CNN.

With the injunction blocked, “drug companies should agree to participate in the negotiation program in good faith,” Maybarduk said. “The program is an important first step in ending the exorbitant prices charged to Medicare enrollees. It’s time for Big Pharma to drop their lawsuits and drop their prices.”

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