Trump administration tackles drug advertising

Coming this summer: another addition to the “fine print” on all those drug commercials. Under a new rule announced this month by the Trump administration, pharmaceutical companies will have to reveal how much their drug costs during TV commercials.

The rule is set to go into effect this summer and will require drug companies to include the price of a drug if it exceeds $35 for a 30-day supply, or the usual course of therapy.

The move is meant to increase transparency in the industry and ideally force pharmaceutical companies to lower its sticker prices on drugs for fear of appearing too expensive.

“Requiring the inclusion of drug list prices in TV ads is the single most significant step any administration has taken toward a simple commitment: American patients deserve to know the prices of the healthcare they receive,” said Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary.

As expected, drug companies pushed back on the new rule. Representatives said they fear including drug prices during commercials will discourage customers from asking their physicians about the drug because they believe they cannot afford it. The new rule stipulates listing the price before any discounts or health insurance coverage, which could lower the cost.

It is notable, however, that because of rising costs an increasing number of Americans are being forced onto high deductible health plans, which can often lack the comprehensive drug coverage required to significantly reduce the cost of prescriptions.

“If drug companies are ashamed of those prices—lower them,” President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after the rule was announced.

Industry experts do not necessarily oppose the new rule, but are skeptical it will result in substantial cost reductions, especially because enforcement of the law is left to the drug companies themselves.

If one drug company fails to include the pricing information in an ad, a competitor can file a lawsuit under the deceptive and unfair trade practice provisions of the Lanham Act. No additional oversight plan has been announced by the Trump administration.

The consensus among Americans appears to be that added transparency in the pharmaceutical industry may be helpful, but is no guarantee. According to a POLITICO/Harvard poll in the summer last year, 63 percent of Americans favored including price information in drug advertisements, but only 28 percent believed it would lower costs.

As for the ClaimLinx team, we don’t expect this to bring about big change in the industry. If it does, though, you can bet we will be ready to use it to our advantage to lower costs for members and clients.

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