Novo, Novartis, BMS and J&J win judge's blessing to combine arguments in upcoming IRA hearing

Four major drugmakers are joining forces as they prepare to battle certain aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in court next month.

Tuesday, a federal judge in New Jersey agreed to let Bristol Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson present oral arguments together in their bid to challenge the IRA’s Medicare negotiations framework, which will allow Medicare to bargain over the costs of certain drugs beginning in 2026.

Arguments from all four companies are set to be heard over a single day on March 7, according to a court docket entry from Tuesday. Endpoints News was first to report the development.

While there are nuances to each company’s arguments, the defendants figure the hearing should be combined given the “overlapping nature of the claims” and “certain common defenses.” They argue that splitting hearings would be inefficient, burdensome and could potentially prejudice plaintiffs.

“Hearing the cases on separate dates would result in duplication of the arguments on overlapping issues,” lawyers for the drugmakers argued in a Friday letter to U.S. District Judge Zahid Quraishi.

To avoid repetition, the defendants have agreed to divvy up arguments along different issues during the joint hearing next month. The drugmakers are broadly arguing that the IRA’s negotiation framework steps on their constitutional rights. In particular, several companies have suggested the program violates the First Amendment by forcing them to participate in an ostensibly voluntary process.

The federal government, on the other hand, has argued that it isn’t “necessary, efficient, or appropriate” to hear all four companies' arguments together before it’s had a chance to review all of the claims. They’ve pointed out that while BMS’ and J&J's arguments “overlap completely,” Novartis and Novo Nordisk “introduce a number of new issues and claims.”

Next month’s hearing will open a new front in the pharmaceutical industry’s ongoing battle against the IRA. Besides Novo, Novartis, BMS and J&J, lawsuits challenging the law have been filed by the likes of AstraZeneca, Merck & Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim.

The industry lobbying group PhRMA has also sought to counter the IRA in court. Last week, however, a federal judge in Texas tossed the trade organization’s lawsuit because it “lacked subject matter jurisdiction.” PhRMA’s case was thrown out “without prejudice,” meaning the organization has the option to refile.

Elsewhere, AstraZeneca's case in Delaware was the first to reach the oral arguments stage less than a month ago.