CMS to Require Drugmakers to List Prices in Ads
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 01:18 PM

The CMS plans to require prescription drug manufacturers to their list prices in direct-to-consumer television advertisements.  Under the proposed rule, drugmakers will have to post the price of a typical course of treatment for acute medications like antibiotics or for a 30-day supply of medications for chronic conditions. Consumer ads will have to have a readable, text statement at the end to comply with the mandate.

"This historic proposal is an important way to create new incentives for drug companies to start lowering their list prices, rather than raising them," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "President Trump's drug-pricing blueprint called for HHS to consider how to accomplish this goal, and now we are following through on this measure to better inform patients, help them lower their drug costs, and reduce unreasonable spending in Medicare and Medicaid."

Drugs with list prices under $35 per month will be exempt from the requirement. The CMS requested comments on whether the regulation should apply to radio, web, print or social networking advertising as well.

The agency estimates that 25 pharmaceutical companies will be affected by this rule, and they run an estimated 300 distinct pharmaceutical ads on television each quarter. Complying with the rule will cost drugmakers $5.2 million in its first year and $2.4 million in subsequent years.

Earlier this summer, major drugmakers slammed the idea of revealing their prices in TV ads after Trump revealed his blueprint to lower drug prices.  But Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) executives outlined their own voluntary plan to direct people to online drug price information through their direct advertising, and hinted they would sue if they are required to do anything further. 

PhRMA executives made it clear they believed a government mandate on drugmakers to disclose only the full list prices directly in their television ads would violate the First Amendment as "compelled speech." They announced that PhRMA member companies have agreed to direct consumers who are watching their ads to a website that would include the specific drug's list price as well as a range of the potential out-of-pocket costs people would actually pay depending on their insurance plan or eligibility for financial help. 

PhRMA President Stephen Ubl was unequivocal that manufacturers do not want to advertise their list prices alone because it could “discourage patients” from seeking the "right drug"

Azar quickly responded to the PhRMA announcement, stating that the administration would not back off its plan. He said that the White House vision “does not rely on voluntary action." Azar said “the drug industry remains resistant to providing real transparency around their prices, including the sky-high list prices that many patients pay.”  

The American Medical Association praised the Trump administration's move, but AMA President Dr. Barbara McAneny said it won't fix the "often-misleading nature of prescription drug ads" on its own.

"Compelling disclosure of list prices in (direct-to-consumer advertising) likely serves to confuse rather than further inform patients and other stakeholders," Christie Bloomquist vice president of corporate affairs, for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals said in a comment letter. "The majority of patients with insurance coverage are not subject to the list price, and patient costsharing is highly variable across individuals who may have different types of healthcare coverage."

Other drugmakers argue that misleading pricing information may discourage consumers from using medications that could help them or may be affordable thanks to insurance coverage or other factors.