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Senate and HHS Make Moves to Advance Mandatory Drug Prices in Consumer Ads

Aug. 24, 2018 – Yesterday was a one-two punch in the Trump administration’s effort to move forward a plan to require that drug manufacturers include drug prices in ads directed toward consumers, as the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reviews a proposed rule from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) calling for such action and the Senate voted to provide up to $1 million to fund HHS’ work on the implementation of this provision.

The HHS proposed regulation under review by OMB, “Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Regulation to Require Drug Pricing Transparency,” was listed on the OMB Website with no additional details about the proposal.

The Senate voted to include an amendment to a spending bill that was sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and provides funding for HHS action in this area. The amendment states the following: “Of the funds made available under this Act, not more than $1,000,000 shall be used by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a regulation requiring that direct-to-consumer prescription drug and biological product advertisements include an appropriate disclosure of pricing information with respect to such products.” The spending bill passed 85-7.

These moves, which are part of President Trump’s drug pricing blueprint, could “succeed in mandating ads that further confuse patients about the prices of their drugs,” according to Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp. “Indeed, it will cause some to abandon life-enhancing and life-saving drug regimens,” he said.

The pharmaceuticals industry has contended since Trump’s “American Patients First” blueprint was issued in May that showing list prices in direct-to-consumer ads will not be helpful to consumers, because consumers pay different prices for the same drug. Indeed, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) told Bloomberg that “disclosing prices in ads won’t benefit consumers because they aren’t what patients will pay at the pharmacy,” and that the requirement “could face legal issues, ‘including First Amendment concerns.’”

CHC and key members of The Advertising Coalition “will be conferring to develop plans for next steps in delaying, defeating or modifying the proposals,” Kamp said.