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A Tweak to TV Ads for Prescription Drugs Is Coming

Prices will have to be included
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 8, 2019 12:38 PM CDT
TV Ads for Prescription Drugs Are About to Include Prices
In this March 13, 2019, file phtooHealth and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

(Newser) – Those ever-present TV ads for prescription drugs will soon reveal prices, too, the nation's top health official said Wednesday, responding to a public outcry for government action to restrain medication costs. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the Trump administration has finalized regulations that will require drug companies to disclose list prices of medications costing more than $35 for a month's supply. "What I say to the companies is if you think the cost of your drug will scare people from buying your drugs, then lower your prices," Azar said. "Transparency for American patients is here." The AP has standout details and reaction:

  • Drug companies responded that adding prices to their commercials could unintentionally harm patients. "We are concerned that the administration's rule requiring list prices in direct-to-consumer television advertising could be confusing for patients and may discourage them from seeking needed medical care," said a statement from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main trade group.

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  • But one major firm—Johnson & Johnson—has already announced it will disclose the cost of its blood thinner Xarelto in TV advertising.
  • Drug pricing details are expected to appear in text toward the end of commercials, when potential side effects are disclosed. TV viewers should notice the change later this year, perhaps as early as the summer.
  • The disclosure requirement will not apply to print or radio ads for the foreseeable future. It covers all brand name drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid, which is nearly all medications.
  • The government is hoping that patients armed with prices will start discussing affordability with their doctors, and gradually that will put pressure on drugmakers to keep costs in check.
  • According to the latest government figures, the 10 most commonly advertised drugs have prices ranging from $488 to $16,938 per month or for a usual course of therapy.
  • Although most patients do not pay the full list prices that will be included in ads, experts say those prices are still important. They're the starting point for negotiations between drugmakers and insurers. Also, copays that patients face are often based on list prices. And many people who have high-deductible insurance plans pay list prices for medications because their insurance doesn't start covering until patients have spent several thousand dollars of their own money.
(Read more pharmaceutical companies stories.)

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