October 15, 2018 / 5:40 PM / a month ago

U.S. to propose TV ads for drugs must include list prices

(Reuters) - The U.S. government, in an effort to increase pressure on drugmakers to lower costs for U.S. consumers, said on Monday it will propose requiring companies to include the price of their prescription medicines in television ads.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during an interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, in announcing the plan, dismissed suggestions by major U.S. drug companies that less stringent disclosures might be adequate.

Azar said HHS would soon propose the rule that would force companies to include the list prices paid by the government’s Medicare or Medicaid programs in direct-to-consumer commercials. The policy was previously suggested in President Donald Trump’s “blueprint” to lower U.S. drug prices.

“We will not wait for an industry with so many conflicting and perverse incentives to reform itself,” Azar said, speaking at the National Academy of Medicine’s Annual President’s Forum.

The proposed rule would work to inject greater transparency into the prices prescription drug manufacturers set and would give beneficiaries important information they need to make informed decisions based on cost, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a news release.

Earlier on Monday, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry’s top U.S. lobbying group, announced that its members would include directions in their commercials for patients to find information about the potential price of medicines, such as company websites.

It did not pledge to include the list price in commercials, arguing that they do not reflect the final amount paid by patients as it excludes rebates and discounts drugmakers may offer. PhRMA said including the list price in commercials could discourage patients from seeking needed medical care.

PhRMA represents major U.S. companies, such as Abbvie Inc (ABBV.N), Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Merck & Co (MRK.N).

The industry will also launch a new platform that will give patients and providers cost and financial assistance information for branded medicines, the group said.

Under the proposed rule, the price to be posted in legible text at the end of an ad would be for a typical course of treatment for an acute medication, such as an antibiotic, or for a 30-day supply of medication for a chronic condition, like high blood pressure. HHS said it would maintain a public list of drug advertisements that do not comply.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New York and Manogna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Bill Berkrot

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