Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Start Publishing Drug List Prices

For the first time, large pharmaceutical companies have revealed prescription drugs prices on their websites, bowing to pressure from the Trump administration.

More than a year ago, President Donald Trump proposed public disclosure of prices as one method for lowering health-care costs. Drug makers have been slow to reveal their prices, but now, companies like Pfizer, Amgen, and Eli Lilly & Co. have created digital hubs where patients can access pricing information for multiple drugs. Other companies, such as AbbVie and Bristol-Myers Squibb, have added list prices to their product-specific websites.

Initially, pharma companies protested the idea, noting that drug list prices rarely reflect what a patient actually pays for medications – following insurance, rebates, copayment assistance programs and other modifying factors. PhRMA, the industry’s trade association, said that the rule would deter patients from seeking treatment because they may erroneously believe that they would have to pay full price.

To help correct these assumptions, several of the pricing websites include information differentiating between list prices and actual costs. “Providing the greater context on the website, where we can give list price but also expected out-of-pocket cost dependent on what kind of insurance you have, is much more meaningful to patients [than putting prices in TV ads],” Eli Lilly spokesman Mark Taylor told Bloomberg. Drug prices in consumer-directed TV ads is another proposed solution to lowering health-care costs.

However, other stakeholders are concerned that the patchwork collection of pricing resources will confuse patients further. Connecture Senior Vice President Jim Yocum, who manages the company’s price-transparency tools for Medicare.gov, noted, “If your aim is transparency, those prices need to be upfront and not require additional action from the patient. … What other industry goes to this length to obscure what the price is?”

Source: Bloomberg, April 18, 2019.

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