WASHINGTON – After their bipartisan amendment to require disclosure of prescription drug prices in television ads was removed from the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense-Labor-HHS-Education appropriations “minibus” bill in a last-minute, back room deal, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Angus King of Maine urged their fellow members of Congress to stop caving to the wishes of Big Pharma. Grassley, Durbin and King sponsored the amendment in the Senate, which would provide funding to help ensure that pharmaceutical companies list prices in their prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements. The amendment would help to empower patients, promote transparency, and lower prescription drug costs. The Senate passed it last month with a unanimous consent vote. The amendment had the support of doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and the administration.
“It is a shame when Congress cannot pass a simple appropriations amendment to address high drug prices when that is the number one thing we are hearing from our constituents. If President Trump, AARP, Sen. Durbin, and I can agree on this policy, why is Congress allowing the drug companies to dictate policy?” Grassley said.
“This drug pricing proposal was supported by both Democratic and Republican senators, the AARP, the American Medical Association, America’s health insurance plans, 76 percent of the American people, President Donald Trump, and the Department of Health and Human Services. The only group who opposed it? Big Pharma and their representatives in Congress,” Durbin said. “The number one driver for increases in health insurance premiums is the cost of prescription drugs. All I’m asking is for transparency, and I’m disappointed this measure was pulled from the appropriations bill at the last minute. Democrats and Republicans agreed on this, and it’s so basic. I know ultimately we will find a way to prevail and put American consumers ahead of Big Pharma when it comes to this critical issue.”
“It shouldn’t be this hard to pass bipartisan legislation that would finally force drug companies to disclose the price of their medications,” King said. “This isn’t partisan, and it isn’t controversial – it’s just commonsense.”
Last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $6 billion in DTC advertisements, which drive up health care costs by steering patients towards more expensive medications. The average American sees nine DTC prescription drug ads each day. Studies show that patients are more likely to ask their doctor for a specific brand-name medication, and doctors are more likely to prescribe one, when they have been marketed directly with drug advertisements. For these reasons, most countries have banned DTC prescription drug advertising, with the United States and New Zealand being the only two developed countries that allow it.
In November 2017, Durbin introduced legislation that would require the pharmaceutical industry to provide more information about the cost of drugs in their advertisements. The Drug-price Transparency in Communications (DTC) Act of 2017 would require drug companies to disclose the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of a prescription medication in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and in marketing to prescribers.
The Durbin-Grassley-King amendment was supported by the AARP, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, America’s Health Insurance Plans, BlueCross BlueShield Association and the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.