Three drugmakers challenge Trump’s price disclosure ruling

Amgen, Merck & Co and Eli Lilly have launched a legal challenge to a new rule that will require them to disclose medicine list prices in direct-to-consumer (DTC) television ads.

Last month, the Trump administration confirmed that list prices will be required on all DTC television ads for prescription drugs and biological products, one of the elements of a wide-ranging blueprint for reducing drug prices in the US published last year.

The new requirement is due to come into effect on 9 July and requires adverts to include the wholesale acquisition cost of a drug if it is equal to or greater than $35 for a month’s supply or the usual course of therapy.

While some companies have already started complying with the requirements – including Johnson & Johnson for its Xarelto (rivaroxaban) anticoagulant – the move is being resisted by other pharma companies.

They say that providing the list price doesn’t take into account other factors such as the rebates and discounts that may be offered for medicines, as well as assistance programmes offered to some patients to make them more affordable.

The joint lawsuit, supported by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), is trying to block the requirement from coming into force, arguing that it will be confusing for patients and is unlikely to have any impact on drugs costs.

Amgen said in a statement: “Not only does the rule raise serious freedom of speech concerns, it mandates an approach that fails to account for differences among insurance, treatments and patients themselves, by requiring disclosure of list price.”

It went on to say that “most importantly, it does not answer the fundamental question patients are asking: ‘What will I have to pay for my medicine?”

Merck said meanwhile that it was concerned patients might be discouraged from seeking treatment in the first place if they fear they would be unable to afford a drug “when in fact many patients do not pay anything near the list price.”

Other measures proposed by the White House include doing away with the current rebate system for medicines altogether – to prevent middlemen taking a cut of a medicine’s price – and setting US prices for drugs covered by Medicare Part B with reference to prices in other industrialised countries.

When the list price proposal was firmed up last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said it was “the single most significant step any administration has taken toward a simple commitment: American patients deserve to know the prices of the healthcare they receive.”

“Making those prices more transparent is a significant step in President Trump’s efforts to reform our prescription drug markets and put patients in charge of their own healthcare,” he added.

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