TV ads will soon start showing drug prices
Drug companies that make prescription pharmaceuticals covered by Medicare or Medicaid must begin including the list price — also known as the Wholesale Acquisition Cost — in their television ads if that price is $35 or more for a month’s supply or the usual course of therapy under a final rule that HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced today.
“This is a very important day for patients in our country,” he said during a conference call with reporters.
“Patients have a right to know the price of the health care they are going to receive before they receive it. [Moving forward] for the vast majority of people ... the price they will see in their ad is the price they will pay until they reach their deductible. Companies who are ashamed of their drug prices, should change their prices. It’s that simple,” Azar continued.
He noted that the final rule provides another step in the Trump administration’s ongoing attempt to change the way the U.S. runs its health care operations.
“We believe today’s step on transparency will make prices in health care work much more like they do in any other market: more uniform, more predictable and more competitive,” Azar said. “Requiring drug companies to level with patients about their drug prices is about working towards a system where the patient — not the insurer, not the drug company, not the government but the patient — is in control. We are moving from a system that leaves patients in the dark, to one that puts them in the driver’s seat,” he continued.
The final rule Azar discussed takes effect 60 days from its first appearance in the Federal Register, which Azar believes will be Friday, May 10.
He noted that drug companies that do not follow the rule can be accused by another company of violating the Lanham Act, a 1946 statute that oversees trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition.
Today’s announcement on drug pricing comes almost 1 year after Azar and President Donald J. Trump unveiled ‘American Patients First,’ the blueprint for lowering drug prices.
The document outlined the administration’s strategy, such as increasing competition and negotiation, lowering list prices and out-of-pockets costs, removing a gag clause that kept pharmacists from telling customers that by paying cash, a Medicare Part D drug would be cheaper, and examining pharmacy benefit managers’ compensation.
Experts told Healio Primary Care Today at that time that the plan contradicted ACP’s position paper on lowering drug prices in many areas, was unlikely to work and was “a big disappointment.”
But the HHS has consistently maintained that it is making progress in this area, referencing several accomplishments, including: four drug companies cancelling announced price increases; new negotiation tools for 20 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage; implementation of a process that expedites product development and review and the FDA’s approval of a record 781 generic drugs in 2018, breaking the previous record of 763 the agency had set the year before. – by Janel Miller
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Disclosures: Azar is HHS Secretary.