Skip to content

AARP Urges Court to Require Drugmakers to Show Prices in TV Ads

Consumers are entitled to know the list cost of prescriptions

A wooden gavel with the scales of justice and pills

Getty Images

En español | AARP is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a federal government requirement that pharmaceutical companies show the retail prices of many prescription drugs in television ads for those products.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a drug transparency regulation requiring companies to disclose prices in their TV ads for a 30-day supply of any prescription drug that costs more than $35 a month. Several drug manufacturers sued HHS, saying that the agency didn't have the authority to enact such a rule and that compelling them to put certain information in their commercials violated the free speech protections of the First Amendment. A U.S. District Court judge struck down the regulation last summer, saying that Congress hadn't given HHS the authority to issue the rule.

HHS has appealed the court ruling and on Monday, Jan. 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is scheduled to hear arguments from both sides. In its brief supporting the drug transparency rule, AARP Foundation says that under the current system, consumers do not get the essential drug pricing information they need to allow them and their health care providers to make the best decisions for their care.

"Improving transparency sheds the cloak of secrecy around drug prices by revealing valuable information to consumers and other stakeholders so they can seek viable, cost-reducing solutions,” AARP says in its brief. “Older adults are more likely to take prescription drugs: nine in ten report taking a prescription drug and more than half report taking four or more prescription drugs,” the brief adds.

For the past year, AARP has waged its Stop RxGreed campaign in an effort to convince federal and state lawmakers to enact laws and take regulatory actions to bring down the escalating costs of prescription medication. Increasing price transparency is one of AARP's goals. Already in 2020, pharmaceutical companies have raised the list prices of hundreds of prescription drugs.

AARP also points out in its brief that although many people do not pay the list price of a prescription drug because they are covered by insurance or have access to drug discounts or coupons, many consumers — especially those who are uninsured or underinsured — do pay the retail price. Knowing the list price would help those consumers discover what they would have to pay and help them and their provider decide if that drug is a viable option for them.