The Trump administration for the first time will require pharmaceutical companies to include the price of prescription drugs in television advertisements if the cost exceeds $35 per month.
The proposal could be challenged by the drug industry, which argues that revealing the list price will confuse consumers and could violate the companies’ First Amendment rights. While the list price of some drugs can be thousands of dollars a month, patients with insurance that covers their prescriptions frequently pay far less, often less than $50.
In ads, drug companies have been required to provide a list of potential side effects. Under the new guidelines — expected to take effect this summer — all direct-to-consumer television advertisements for drugs covered by Medicare or Medicaid must include the list price, also known as the wholesale acquisition price, in their ads, said Alex M. Azar II, the Health and Human Services secretary.
The move is the most visible action the administration has taken so far to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. It has been a key issue for American voters and one that both Republicans and Democrats have vowed to address.
Drug makers must update the price they disclose every quarter, which will be the product’s monthly cost or the price for a course of treatment if it is not a chronic medication. The disclosure must be in “legible” text at the end of the advertisement, much like the list of side effects.
The move has been pushed by patient advocacy groups, which have complained that televised drug ads — amounting to about $4.5 billion of the nearly $5.9 billion spent by the industry on product promotion — steer patients to high-priced medications or drugs they do not need.
The drug industry has pointed out that many patients with insurance coverage pay far less than the list price. “We are concerned that the administration’s rule requiring list prices in direct-to-consumer (DTC) television advertising could be confusing for patients and may discourage them from seeking needed medical care,” said Stephen J. Ubl, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry trade group.
Source: Thrush, G; Thomas, K. (2019, May 8). Drug Prices Will Soon Appear in Many TV Ads. The New York Times.