Most Favored Nation Drug Pricing Rule on Hold Awaiting Changes

January 22, 2021By Serra J. Schlanger & Michael S. Heesters & Alan M. Kirschenbaum

As we previously reported (see here and here), in three separate cases, federal courts blocked the implementation of the Most Favored Nation (MFN) rule for Medicare Part B drug payment.  (Our summary of the MFN rule is available here.)  In December 2020, the District Court for the Northern District of California and the District Court for the Southern District of New York issued nationwide preliminary injunctions, while the District Court for the District of Maryland issued a temporary restraining order.  Each order effectively blocked the MFN rule from taking effect on January 1, 2021.

On January 13, 2021, Judge George J. Hazel granted a stay in the suit filed in the District Court for the District of Maryland.  As explained in the Joint Motion to Stay, the plaintiffs (the Association of Community Cancer Centers, the National Infusion Center Association, the Global Colon Cancer Association, and PhRMA) and government defendants agreed to stay the litigation until a new final rule is published in the Federal Register, based on “(1) Defendants’ agreement that they will not appeal the preliminary injunction issued by the Northern District of California; and (2) Defendants’ agreement that the performance period for any final regulation … shall not commence earlier than 60 days after publication of that regulation in the Federal Register.”  We note that, in a fourth lawsuit challenging the MFN rule, the government filed a Status Report on January 8, notifying the District Court for the District of Columbia that it will not appeal the nationwide preliminary injunctions issued by the District Courts in the Northern District of California and Southern District of New York.

A new administration has taken over since these court developments.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, including the Biden White House’s “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” memo issued on January 20, we can safely say the MFN Rule published in November 2020 will not take effect in the short term.  We can also confidently predict that, if and when a new MFN rule is introduced, it will be in the form of a proposed rule with an opportunity for public comment.  More difficult to predict is whether an international reference pricing model will fit into the overall drug price reduction strategies of the new administration and Congress.