"This historic proposal is an important way to create new incentives for drug companies to start lowering their list prices, rather than raising them", Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stated in a press release.
"Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they're being told about the benefits and risks it may have", Azar said in prepared remarks.
But Azar said putting the prices on a website isn't the same thing and patients deserve to know the cost. "And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV". But insurance plans base their copayments on the list price set by drugmakers. Patient costs are typically calculated using the list price, even if a person has insurance. Listing prices in commercials, it said, "could discourage patients from seeking needed medical care". The group also plans its own website, where patients could look up drugs by name and find similar information.
"For too long, drug pricing has been like no other market", Azar said.
Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association known as "PhRMA", said the group is still digesting the announcement but she suggested industry executives aren't happy. But Azar, speaking at a National Academy of Medicine conference, said there is precedence for such a move, pointing out that federal law requires automakers to disclose sticker prices for cars.
The proposed rule, announced by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would make manufacturers announce the "Wholesale Acquisition Cost" for drugs covered in Medicare or Medicaid in advertisements targeted at consumers.
Under the proposed rule, the price to be posted in legible text at the end of an ad would be for a typical course of treatment for an acute medication, such as an antibiotic, or for a 30-day supply of medication for a chronic condition, like high blood pressure.
Many details of the proposed rule still must be worked out, including whether it should be expanded to cover radio, print or internet ads.
Drugmakers generally can charge as much as the USA market will bear because the government doesn't regulate medicine prices, unlike most other developed countries. Both have almost doubled in four years.