Sept. 10, 2018 – Movement toward mandating that drug companies include product prices in consumer-directed ads continues this fall as Congress and the Trump administration push for greater transparency in drug pricing.
On Aug. 23, the Senate voted to include an amendment sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to a spending bill. 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 [HHS] 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” (https://bit.ly/2P2Mh9x).
The spending bill passed 85-7, and the bill including this language now is before the relevant House committees – the House Energy and Commerce, House Appropriations and House Ways & Means committees – for consideration. It is worth noting that the House committees are under pressure to move quickly, because the HHS spending bill is supposed to have a Sept. 30 deadline.
Despite efforts from industry calling on Congress and the White House to reject the mandatory drug price disclosure, experts predict that it is likely that the House will accept the Durbin/Grassley wording. With the Trump administration strongly behind this action as spelled out in the President’s “American Patients First” blueprint on drug pricing, and last month’s news that HHS had sent a proposed regulation to implement this measure to the Office of Management and Budget for review, the horse already may be out of the barn.
The Coalition for Healthcare Communication continues to believe that mandated drug price disclosures in consumer ads “are unfortunate, primarily because they do not represent true transparency,” according to Coalition Executive Director John Kamp. “The actual prices that individual patients pay vary widely – due to rebates, formularies, tiers, copays, coupons, whether they have insurance and with what provider, etc. – so a specific ‘list price’ is probably inaccurate, confusing, and even misleading,” he explained.