Of the many policy ideas in the Trump administration’s “blueprint” for lowering drug prices, one that got a significant amount of attention was a proposed requirement to have televised drug advertisements carry the list prices of drugs. Now, one of the largest drugmakers in the country has decided to bite.
In a post on its website, New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson said it would start to include cost information about its drugs in direct-to-consumer advertisements, starting with the anticoagulant drug Xarelto (rivaroxaban). Information could include both the list price and potential out-of-pocket costs for patients.
“We spoke with many consumers and patients to understand what pricing information would be most relevant to them,” wrote Scott White, J&J’s company group chairman for North America pharmaceuticals, wrote in the post. “Their input not only shaped how we responded to the Administration’s DTC TV advertising proposal, it also suggested a common-sense path forward that we believe will give patients clearer, and more valuable, information about the cost of the medicines we advertise on TV.”
White added that the company’s approach builds on its support for the revised advertising principles put forward by the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA’s idea, he noted, is to have member companies direct patients to online information about the costs of medicines advertised on television.
Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, voiced his support for inclusion of drug pricing information in DTC ads in remarks in a hearing on the topic. However, a recent study also indicated that, while high list prices can diminish interest in a drug, drugmakers’ promises of copay assistance and coupons can make them seem more palatable to consumers. A 2016 study by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Duke University indicated that copay assistance programs act as a “helping hand” to raise drug costs. They do this in particular by diminishing price pressures, undermining benefit designs that allow for low-cost insurance plans, reducing patient scrutiny of costs and insurers’ negotiating leverage and not offering as much assistance as they seem to.
Experts have also questioned the wisdom of including list prices, saying they could cause sticker shock while glossing over the complexity that goes into drug pricing.
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