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Would requiring drug advertisements to list price tags really help lower prices? | THE BUSINESS TIMES

IF US President Donald Trump has his way, television viewers who see commercials for the drug Keytruda will learn not only that it can help lung cancer patients, but also that it carries a price tag of US$13,500 a month, or US$162,000 a year.

Viewers who see advertisements for Neulasta, a drug that reduces the risk of infections after chemotherapy, would learn that the list price for each injection is US$6,200. And magazine readers would see a new bit of information in ads for Humira, the world’s best-selling drug, prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases: its list price, which has been widely reported as approximately US$50,000 a year.

The disclosure of such data is perhaps the most eye-catching goal of Mr Trump’s plan to lower drug prices. The president is determined to bring “price transparency” to the market in an effort to stimulate competition and overturn the current convoluted, opaque system in which everyone but the consumer benefits from higher prices, said Alex M Azar II, the secretary of health and human services.

The idea seemed like an idle threat at first. The White House floated it as one of 50 options when Mr Trump, in a Rose Garden speech on May 11, vowed to “bring soaring drug prices back down to earth”. Three days later, however, Mr Azar said the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were examining not whether but “how to require drug companies to post their list prices in direct-to-consumer advertising”. He hammered the theme again on Wednesday, saying that “when patients hear about a wonderful new drug, they should know whether it costs US$100 or US$50,000”. But what the administration presents as a simple matter of transparency has raised a torrent of questions from consumers, doctors, drugmakers and advertising professionals. Would it be legal? How would it work? Would it actually drive down drug prices? Would it be counterproductive, since high prices could discourage patients from considering helpful medicines?

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Would requiring drug advertisements to list price tags really help lower prices?, Consumer – THE BUSINESS TIMES.

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