In the latest efforts by the Trump administration to lower drug prices, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar revealed Monday a proposal that would require pharmaceutical companies to provide the list prices of certain drugs in direct-to-consumer advertisements. The proposal, drafted as a new federal rule, would require drug manufacturers to disclose in ads the list price of a 30-day supply of any drug that is covered through Medicare and Medicaid and costs more than $35 a month.
“Patients deserve to know what a given drug will cost when they’re being told about the benefits and risks it may have,” Azar commented in a speech Monday before the National Academy of Medicine, “and they deserve to know when a drug company has pushed its prices to abusive levels, and they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV.” He added, “Sometimes it takes government to make the first move, to disrupt a broken system, and to lay down new rules of the road.”
Azar, a former top executive at drug giant Eli Lilly, has led the administration’s crack down on the pharmaceutical industry, while striving to eliminate any suspicion of alignment with his former pharma colleagues.
The announcement came hours after the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group announced that it will voluntarily begin telling consumers in TV ads where they can go to find information about costs, beginning April 15, 2019. Customers will be directed to a website with information about price estimates after insurance.
“We appreciate their effort,” Azar said. “But placing information on a website is not the same as putting it in an ad.”
PhRMA’s 33 members include names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, and other major biopharma companies. The group believes the proposed rule is unconstitutional because it infringes on their First Amendment rights, and do not think the administration can force them to include list prices in ads.