With intense interest both at the state and federal levels, the Trump administration is taking aim at controlling the spending on drugs.
On May 8, the Trump administration finalized its rule requiring drugmakers to include price information in television ads for any products that cost $35 or more a month or spanning a typical course of therapy.
Drug companies spend millions a year on advertising. In 2017, AbbVie spent $429 million on their drug Humira, and Pfizer spent $350 million on their drug Lyrica, according to a list by Kantar Media. In total, the drug industry spent more than $5.5 billion on advertising in 2017, including nearly $4.2 billion on television ads, according to HHS.
“The Trump administration has taken a step in the right direction by requiring pricing information in direct-to-consumer television advertising of prescription drugs. Last year, the AMA called for regulations requiring the ads to include the manufacturer’s list price of those drugs, and we have supported similar legislative efforts. This small dose of transparency will help patients have a more complete picture when faced with prescription drug ads. While current ads outline the potential benefits and side effects, a crucial factor for patients — the drug’s price — is not included. Patients — especially those who pay a drug’s list price or whose cost-sharing is based on the list price — will now have another tool in their toolbox as they work with their physicians to determine their prescription drug regimens. That’s a notable change,” said Barbara L. McAneny, MD, president of the American Medical Association, in a statement.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called the requirement "the single most significant step any administration has taken" toward price transparency in an announcement.
“Patients who are struggling with high drug costs are in that position because of the high list prices that drug companies set," Azar said in the announcement. "Making those prices more transparent is a significant step in President Trump’s efforts to reform our prescription drug markets and put patients in charge of their own healthcare.”
However, some health experts think it is not as simple as this. Clarity on whether the new ruling pertains to wholesale price versus sale price, dosage or “per unit” cost, and how insurance affects said prices are only a few complications associated with the ruling. The FDA has a working group currently studying the issues.
Dan Jaffe, the Association of National Advertisers head of government affairs, previously stated that the rule has “substantial First Amendment issues” and that he would not rule out legal action if the move went from proposal to regulation. It’s uncertain if any groups will pursue legal action against the new rule.