Pharmaceutical companies would be required to reveal the prices of the medicine they pitch in television ads, under a proposed federal regulation that health officials say is intended to inform consumers and rein in drug costs.
The rule would require drugmakers to disclose the manufacturer’s list price for prescription drugs covered by Medicare or Medicaid when they promote their products on TV.
“This historic proposal is an important way to create new incentives for drug companies to start lowering their list prices, rather than raising them,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar says in a statement.
Azar and other officials touted the proposal as part of a larger attempt to bring greater transparency to prices set by manufacturers while giving consumers a chance to make informed choices based on cost. AARP has supported efforts to make prescription drug pricing more transparent, including on consumer advertising.
"Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they're being told about the benefits and risks it may have,” Azar says in his remarks. “They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV."
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Under the proposed rule, manufacturers would be required to post prices for a typical treatment, such as an antibiotic for an acute illness or a 30-day supply of medication for a chronic condition. The information would have to be a “legible textual statement” at the end of the ad, HHS officials said. The regulation exempts drugs with list prices of less than $35 per month.
HHS is asking the public to comment on whether the regulation also should apply to ads on radio and in magazines, newspapers, websites and social networking sites.
If the rule is implemented after a 60-day public comment period, HHS would maintain a public list of drugs advertised in violation of the proposed rule — an attempt to shame companies into compliance, officials said.
Current rules require companies to list side effects in their TV ads but not drug prices.
Just before Azar's announcement, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and 33 of its member companies volunteered to disclose in drug ads a website that lists prices, the range of likely out-of-pocket costs and any available financial assistance, according to a statement on PhRMA’s website.
The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing called PhRMA’s announcement “a total joke. The real solution is simple and has bipartisan support: providing real and direct drug-pricing transparency in advertisements. Any approach that does not include the actual price of drugs in the advertisement is unacceptable and does not pass the laugh test.”