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The lobby group that represents big drug companies said Monday that its members will start mentioning prices in their television ads – indirectly, anyway.
Companies will point viewers to websites that mention the list prices of the drugs they advertise, and that also mention what consumers can expect to actually pay for the drugs. It’s a voluntary action agreed upon by the 33 members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA.
“PhRMA member companies’ direct-to-consumer television advertisements will soon direct patients to information about medicine costs, including the list price of the medicine, out-of-pocket costs or other context about the potential cost of the medicine and available financial assistance,” the group said in a statement.
It’s a direct response to the Trump administration’s decision to write a rule requiring price information in drug ads. PhRMA said any attempt to force companies to publish prices would violate First Amendment rights of free speech.
This move would be voluntary, but all members, which include major drug makers such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Amgen and Eli Lilly, have signed on.
“The Administration and Congress have called on our industry to provide cost information in DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertisements, and our members are voluntarily stepping up to the plate,” the group said.
The move did not impress Ben Wakana, a spokesman for Patients for Affordable Drugs.
“The PhRMA proposal is a laughable attempt to avoid full transparency,” Wakana told NBC News.
“This is a propaganda campaign to control the information consumers see and to keep prices high.”
The television ads will not include a drug’s actual list price, but will direct viewers to websites that will discuss prices. PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl said this is because patients will also get an explanation of how much insurance pays and pointers to payment assistance plans. “Simply including list prices may be confusing and may discourage consumers from seeking medical care,” Ubl told reporters.
Wakana said this approach gives the companies an opportunity to deflect blame about drug costs. “If drug companies are nervous that patients won’t take their drugs if they see the full price, then drug companies should lower their prices,” he said.
Wakana also noted the move only affects television ads, not online, print or other ads.