Drug Prices TV Ads

FILE - In this March 13, 2019, file phtooHealth and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Azar says drugmakers will soon have to reveal prices of their prescription medicines in those ever-present TV ads. The Trump administration will issue final regulations on May 8 requiring drug companies to disclose list prices of medications costing more than $35 for a month’s supply. Azar tells The Associated Press if drugmakers are scared to put prices in ads that means they should lower those prices. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON — TV pitches for prescription drugs will soon include the price, giving consumers more information upfront as they make medication choices at a time when new drugs can carry anxiety-inducing prices.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday the Trump administration has finalized regulations requiring 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.”

In a tweet, President Donald Trump celebrated the announcement, saying: “Historic transparency for American patients is here. If drug companies are ashamed of those prices,lower them!”

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 the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main trade group.

But one major firm — Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey — has already started disclosing the cost of its blood thinner Xarelto in TV advertising. And polls indicate many patients are not taking their medications as prescribed because of cost.

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 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 of brand-name drugs in check.

Pricing disclosure was part of a multilevel blueprint President Donald Trump announced last year to try to lower prescription drug costs.

Democrats say it still won’t force drugmakers to lower what they charge, and they want Medicare to negotiate on behalf of consumers.

Leigh Purvis, a pharma expert with AARP’s research division, said disclosure will help dispel a “cloak of darkness” around prices and encourage more informed discussions between patients and their doctors. But she cautioned against expecting too much.

“The overall idea of reducing drug prices is something for which there is no silver bullet,” said Purvis. “This is just one step, one tool in what will have to be a very big arsenal.”

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