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March 26, 2023

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Proposal aims for drug price transparency

Manufacturers would have to disclose prices in TV commercials

By , Columbian staff writer

Medicine commercials might have something in common with car commercials soon.

No, we’re not talking awful music, large fonts or a hammy care salesman. We’re talking about sticker prices. The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services has proposed a requirement that would make drug manufacturers disclose their drug prices in direct-to-consumer television advertisements.

John R. Graham, a regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, said the proposal is a move to increase transparency from drug makers, which is one of President Donald Trump’s main health care goals. The proposal will have a 60-day public comment period, and Graham said implementation should follow relatively soon after that window.

“We decided this will have a big impact in informing consumers and informing patients as to what they pay for a prescription drug,” Graham said.

Graham explained that the 10 most commonly advertised drugs on TV have list prices ranging from $535 to $11,000 per month or per the usual course of therapy.

“The (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulates prescription drug advertising today,” Graham said. “It requires a prescription drug ad to communicate the side effects of a prescription drug, but one of the biggest side effects can be on your wallet, and the advertising today is not required to disclose that, so we’re trying to fix that.”

According to the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services website, the proposed rule would require that the price posted would be for a “typical course of treatment for an acute medication like an antibiotic, or a thirty day supply of medication for a chronic condition that is taken every month.”

That posting would appear as a legible text statement at the end of the advertisement. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary would keep a public “list of drugs that were advertised in violation of this rule,” the website states.

Graham explained that the goal isn’t to control prices or “micromanage the prescription drug industry,” but instead give customers the most information possible. He said informed consumers are a way to counteract increasing drug prices.

“There’s kind of an argument in health care that the market doesn’t work,” Graham said. “Well, we’re going to make the market work like it does in every other market, and that requires an informed consumer.”

Columbian staff writer