US drug firms will have to show prices in TV ads

The US will soon require pharmaceutical companies to disclose the price of their drugs during television commercials.

WASHINGTON: The United States will soon require pharmaceutical companies to disclose the price of their drugs during television commercials, a measure which President Donald Trump on Wednesday welcomed as “historic transparency.”

It is part of a US government policy to fight the high price of prescription drugs, which often exceeds those in neighbouring Canada and Mexico.

The price will have to be displayed at the end of the ads, in the same manner as side effects which already must be mentioned.

United States television prominently features ads for medicines – and not just common cold and similar remedies but treatments for complex conditions.

The requirement will take effect in 60 days.

It covers drugs priced at least US$35 for a normal treatment or a month’s supply.

“American patients deserve to know the prices of the healthcare they receive,” said Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary.

The 10 most viewed drugs on television cost between US$488 and US$16,938 a month, according to the government.

About half of Americans have health insurance with a high deductible which can reach thousands of dollars a year, in many cases more than US$5,000 or US$6,000 annually.

This means they usually have to pay the full displayed drug price until they have spent their annual deductible amount.

Those with better coverage pay a fraction of the list price, and the situation can vary enormously from one person to another.

On Twitter, Trump hailed the “big announcement.”

“Drug companies have to come clean about their prices in TV ads,” he said. “If drug companies are ashamed of those prices – lower them!”

Trump has vowed that his Republicans will become “the party of great healthcare.” He is seeking to dismantle “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act which brought healthcare coverage for millions more Americans when it took effect under then president Barack Obama.