Trump Administration Calls for Drug Prices in Television Ads

The Trump administration has proposed a rule mandating that drug makers disclose the price of their products in television advertisements, saying that the move “will provide manufacturers with an incentive to reduce their list prices by exposing overly costly drugs to public scrutiny.”

A recent poll suggests that 90 percent of Americans want list prices to be included in television commercials for prescription drugs, but the proposal has been met with objections from litigious pharmaceutical companies and television broadcasters, as well as advocacy groups who question how effective the requirement would be.

“Requiring list price disclosures could result in increased consumer confusion and may potentially deter patients from seeking care,” wrote Pfizer lobbyist Robert W. Jones in a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who drafted the rule.

Even those who fight for lower drug prices question what effect the move will have on patients. “The list price is an inflated price and does not represent what the patient pays, nor for that matter, what the pharmaceutical company receives,” says Carl E. Schmid II, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute. “In and of itself, it is not a useful figure for patients. What they need to know is how much a drug will actually cost them at the time of sale.”

As an alternative, the drug industry, which spent nearly $4.5 billion on television advertising last year, said it will voluntarily begin directing television ad viewers to company websites that provide information about list prices, out-of-pocket costs, and suggestions for financial assistance. Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of the anticoagulant rivaroxaban (Xarelto), plans to disclose the drug’s list price ($448 per month) in its television ads.

Source: The New York Times, March 23, 2019.