HHS Considering Requiring Pharmaceutical Ads to Include Prices

To provide incentives for pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed requiring certain consumer-directed television ads to disclose drugs’ list prices.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar revealed the proposed rule in a speech before the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). Under the rule, companies’ television ads would have to disclose the price of a 30-day supply of any drug covered through Medicare and Medicaid if the cost was more than $35 per month. By making consumers more aware of the costs of medicines, HHS believes that manufacturers will be incentivized to lower prices, a major goal of the Trump administration.

Members of the health-care community remain skeptical that including prices would alter consumers’ and health-care providers’ prescribing habits. Responding to the announcement, the American Medical Association reiterated its opposition to direct-to-consumer advertising but noted that “as long as the practice is allowed, the ads should come with at least a small dose of transparency.” (For more about the prevalence of direct-to-consumer drug advertising and its affect on drug prices, see our August 2018 article, “Ad Nauseam.”)

The draft rule also encountered resistance from drug manufacturers, which argue that the requirement could mislead patients and deter them from seeking medical care, noting that the list price is rarely what a consumer pays for a drug.

Hours before Mr. Azar unveiled his proposal, the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced that drug companies would voluntarily direct consumers to websites with pricing and other information. Mr. Azar, however, dismissed the group’s proposal as ineffective, suggesting that it was only an attempt to forestall government regulation.

“Sometimes it takes government to make the first move, to disrupt a broken system, and to lay down new rules of the road,” Mr. Azar told the audience at NAM, adding that “placing information on a website is not the same as putting it right in an ad.”

The rule is expected to be debated throughout the fall before it is formally adopted or rejected.

Source: The Washington Post, October 15, 2018.

Source: The Washington Post, October 15, 2018.