Coming Soon to a TV Near You: List Prices for Drugs

Television advertisements for prescription drugs will soon need to include list prices, according to new regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rules apply to medications for which a month’s supply costs more than $35.

In his announcement of the forthcoming change, HHS Secretary Alex Azar addressed the pharmaceutical industry: “What I say to the companies is if you think the cost of your drug will scare people from buying your drugs, then lower your prices,” he said. “Transparency for American patients is here.”

As soon as this summer, television viewers will notice pricing information in the text toward the end of commercials where potential side effects are mentioned. Regulators hope that inclusion of the list price will encourage patients to discuss affordability with their doctors, which in turn will put pressure on drugmakers to lower prices.

Pharmaceutical companies have responded with concerns about patient confusion and free speech infringement, but it is unclear if a court challenge will result. One industry leader, Johnson & Johnson, has already begun disclosing the list price of Xarelto (rivaroxaban) in direct-to-consumer television advertising.

At present, list prices for the 10 most commonly advertised drugs range from $488 to $16,938 per month’s supply. The new regulation applies to all brand name drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid, and its enforcement relies on drug companies suing each other over violations.

Source: AP, May 8, 2019.