A federal judge, Thomas M. Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, has withdrawn from a case that could impact Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices. This decision came after a watchdog group, the Revolving Door Project, raised concerns about Judge Rose’s ownership of stock in two pharmaceutical companies, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which would be directly affected by the new drug pricing program.
The Biden administration unveiled a list of 10 drugs subject to price negotiations this year, including Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto and AstraZeneca’s Farxiga. Judge Rose owned between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of Johnson & Johnson stock and shares in AstraZeneca worth up to $15,000, according to his 2022 financial disclosure.
Until his withdrawal, Judge Rose was presiding over a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The suit sought a ruling that Medicare negotiating drug prices would be unconstitutional.
The pharmaceutical industry has been actively filing lawsuits to challenge Medicare’s new pricing powers. Companies such as Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, and the drugmaker lobby PhRMA have filed complaints in different district courts. Legal experts suggest that these companies are spreading their complaints across the country to increase the chances of the litigation reaching the Supreme Court.
Merck’s CEO, Robert Davis, has confirmed the company’s intention to pursue its lawsuit to the Supreme Court. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had asked Judge Rose to block the Medicare drug pricing program by October 1, which was the deadline for drugmakers to sign agreements to participate in the negotiations.