Be Transparent When Advertising Drugs, Senator Durbin Tells Pharma Firms

Susan WalshAP Images

As the cost of prescription drugs continues to rise, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin wrote to top pharmaceutical companies urging them to clearly put the price of their drugs in their advertisements to consumers. The Senator pointed out that the pharma companies are also dramatically increasing prices. He said that patients are also facing critical shortages of the medicine they need.

“One way to promote price transparency is to require drug companies to tell us their prices. Last year, I introduced the Drug-price Transparency in Communications Act, which would require price disclosure in prescription drug advertising. The President says he supports this policy, so let’s get it done,” he said.

According to a report by Drug Watch, the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $6 billion on marketing and advertising drugs to consumers and more than $20 billion in aggressive marketing to prescribers.

Durbin’s letters come on the heels of legislation he has introduced and recent endorsements from President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar for requiring price listing in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertisements.

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“Health care is too expensive for too many working families, and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is only exacerbating the problem, causing higher out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy and ever-rising monthly premiums. Not to mention what these escalating price tags mean for our federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, which are supported with taxpayer dollars,” Senator Durbin said.

Listing out the provisions in the Drug-price Transparency in Communications Act, the senator said that it is mandatory for the pharmaceutical industry to disclose the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of a drug. As per the Act, failure to do so would be penalized as a false or misleading statement, resulting in a fine of up to $1 million for a first-time violation that would be transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for medical research.

Durbin sent letters on drug-price transparency to the following pharmaceutical companies: Pfizer, Abbvie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Merck, Glaxo Smith Kline, and Novartis.

The letter was signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Maggie Hassan, Sherrod Brown, and Angus King.