The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new policy Wednesday to improve transparency in the pharmaceutical industry.
Starting this summer, TV commercials for prescription drugs covered by Medicaid or Medicare must mention the list price if it exceeds $35 for the standard treatment course or monthly supply.
“Patients have a right to know, and if you’re ashamed of your drug prices, change your drug prices,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Wednesday, according to Time magazine.
The policy has no enforcement mechanism but depends on companies suing rivals that violate the standard, Azar said. The HHS will also publish a list of drugs with non-compliant ads.
“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 a press release. “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.”
While one company — Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) — has already begun publicizing prices, others in the industry are averse to the practice. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America opposed the new regulation.
“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,” the organization told the Associated Press.
The PhRMA established industry principles in October that encourage voluntary price listing in commercials. The standards became effective April 15.
The federal mandate will affect, at the very least, the firms behind the 10 most advertised drugs in the industry. The Department of Health and Human Services noted the top 10 sell for between $488 and $16,938.
To supplement the ad initiative, President Donald Trump is urging Congress to craft bipartisan legislation combating unexpected medical costs.
One recommendation is to prevent out-of-network emergency doctors from sending patients balance bills. Others would establish constant out-of-pocket costs for in- and out-of-network providers, or would require providers to estimate out-of-pocket costs.
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