The Trump administration completed its rule requiring drugmakers to include list prices for most drugs in television ads, pushing ahead with efforts to improve transparency in health-care costs despite opposition from pharmaceutical companies.
The administration's new rule, set to take effect this summer, applies to direct-to-consumer TV advertisements for prescription drugs covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Drugmakers must include the wholesale acquisition cost, or list price, if it is equal to or greater than $35 for a month's supply, and must post the list price at the end of the ad in a way that it can be seen clearly. “Drug companies have to come clean about their prices in TV ads,” President Trump wrote on Twitter.
In 2017, more than $5.5 billion was spent on prescription drug advertising, including nearly $4.2 billion on TV ads. Commonly advertised drugs include AbbVie Inc.'s Humira, which has a list price of more than $5,000 a month, along with Pfizer Inc.'s Lyrica, which costs $468 a month, according to data provided in the rule. The rule will go into effect 60 days after it posts in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur Friday.
Drug makers have opposed the mandate, saying the rule could improperly limit free speech and that providing only the list price would confuse and mislead consumers who might think they have to pay more than they actually would. The list price is the figure initially set by the drugmaker, but it is different than what consumers generally pay, because it doesn't take into account rebates, discounts and insurance payments.
“While we are still reviewing the administration's rule, we believe there are operational challenges, particularly the 60-day implementation time frame, and think the final rule raises First Amendment and statutory concerns,” said Stephen Ubl, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, in a written statement. PhRMA is an industry trade group.
The administration argued that list prices matter to patients, especially consumers with high deductibles who often must pay the full amount. The U.S. currently requires ads to disclose side effects and other information.
“Requiring the inclusion of drugs' list prices in TV ads is the single most significant step any administration has taken toward a simple commitment: American patients deserve to know the prices of the health care they receive,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “We think it is a fundamental right to know” a drug's list price.
The rule issued Wednesday by HHS is part of an effort launched by the White House in May 2018 to combat rising drug prices.
BY STEPHANIE ARMOUR