According to the proposal, TV commercials would have to state in legible type the list price set by the manufacturer for all drugs costing more than $35 per month or for a standard course of treatment, such as for an antibiotic.
Azar on Monday said the drug industry "remains resistant to providing real transparency" on pricing.
"We will not wait for an industry with so many conflicting and perverse incentives to reform itself", Azar said at the National Academy of Medicine's annual forum. "And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV". The Health and Human Services Department says the rule would apply to any company advertising on television for prescription drug and biological products paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. HHS said it would maintain a public list of drug advertisements that do not comply.
It did not pledge to include the list price in commercials, arguing that they do not reflect the final amount paid by patients as it excludes rebates and discounts drugmakers may offer. And patients with high-deductibles plans or no insurance sometimes pay full price. Almost half of Americans are in high-deductible health plans, HHS said. But whether the plan would prompt drug companies to lower prices remains to be seen.
PhRMA CEO Stephen J. Ubl and others in the trade group said they believe requiring list prices in ads would violate the companies' First Amendment free speech rights. Officials said they would enforce the rule using both public shaming - a list would be published of companies that defy the regulation - and legal action.
Patients for Affordable Drugs, an advocacy group funded by foundations, called PhRMA's website choice "a transparent attempt to pre-empt full disclosure of list prices in ads", adding that it doesn't think disclosing list prices will reduce patients' costs.
Drug companies were clearly trying to fend off any government regulation.
"We appreciate their effort", Azar said.
Azar shot back that list prices were, indeed, meaningful for consumers - similar to the sticker price on an automobile. "But placing information on a website is not the same as putting it right in an ad".
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