Law­mak­ers halt push for drug prices in TV ads

In an ef­fort to get the first set of FY 2019 ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills to the Pres­i­dent’s desk, US House lead­ers scrapped a bi­par­ti­san amend­ment that would have re­quired drug­mak­ers to in­clude list prices in di­rect-to-con­sumer (DTC) tele­vi­sion ads.

Chuck Grass­ley

The amend­ment — spon­sored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grass­ley (R-IA) — was of­fered and sub­se­quent­ly with­drawn dur­ing a joint con­fer­ence com­mit­tee of the House and Sen­ate, de­spite pass­ing the Sen­ate last month. The move was fol­lowed by fin­ger point­ing.

Richard Durbin

The amend­ment forms part of an on­go­ing ef­fort to com­bat drug prices through greater trans­paren­cy. It is al­so a pil­lar to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­cent “blue­print” on drug prices.

“For some rea­son, some­one on the oth­er side is try­ing to block this com­mon sense, tru­ly bi­par­ti­san pol­i­cy,” Durbin said dur­ing the joint hear­ing. “When are we go­ing to stand up to Big Phar­ma and ac­tu­al­ly do some­thing about sky high pre­scrip­tion drug prices? Trans­paren­cy in ad­ver­tis­ing is the very least Con­gress can do,” Durbin added.

Durbin took to Twit­ter af­ter the joint hear­ing, cit­ing “Big Phar­ma and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress” as the “on­ly group who op­posed” the amend­ment.

Amend­ment Com­ments

The Durbin-Grass­ley amend­ment, which was not in­clud­ed in the draft fund­ing bill that was re­leased in June, did not make it through the ne­go­ti­a­tion agree­ment be­cause to “too many of our friends across the ta­ble here, it was con­tro­ver­sial,” Sen. Richard Shel­by (R-AL) said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) echoed Shel­by’s com­ments and con­cerns dur­ing the joint hear­ing.

The fact that it is a Durbin-Grass­ley amend­ment that the Sen­ate al­ready passed “speaks to how worth­while it is” and “peo­ple ought to know” how much pre­scrip­tion drugs are go­ing to cost in DTC ad­ver­tise­ments, said Leahy. In the in­ter­est of re­turn­ing to reg­u­lar or­der, Leahy ul­ti­mate­ly sided with Shel­by in op­po­si­tion to in­clud­ing the amend­ment in the joint con­fer­ence re­port.

Durbin and Grass­ley ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with the de­ci­sion to drop the pro­pos­al for now at least, ar­gu­ing against the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the amend­ment as a “poi­son pill rid­er.”

It was re­moved “in a last-minute, back­room deal,” Grass­ley said, point­ing to those that had showed sup­port. These in­clude the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion, the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tals and the Cam­paign for Sus­tain­able Rx Pric­ing (CSRxP), among sev­er­al oth­ers.

The bill “aban­dons the re­al bi­par­ti­san progress the Sen­ate and the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion made to hold Big Phar­ma ac­count­able for out-of-con­trol drug prices and give pa­tients the in­for­ma­tion they need to make smart de­ci­sions about their health care,” said CSRxP.

The Durbin-Grass­ley amend­ment pre­vi­ous­ly drew ire from in­dus­try trade as­so­ci­a­tions.

“FDA should not pur­sue any re­quired dis­clo­sure of list prices in di­rect-to-con­sumer phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ad­ver­tis­ing,” PhRMA said in its Ju­ly com­ments to HHS on Trump’s drug pric­ing blue­print. “Such a re­quire­ment could con­fuse pa­tients since the list price of­ten does not rep­re­sent what they would ac­tu­al­ly be re­quired to pay” and it “could al­so have the un­in­tend­ed and harm­ful con­se­quence of de­ter­ring pa­tients from seek­ing care.”


First pub­lished here. Reg­u­la­to­ry Fo­cus is the flag­ship on­line pub­li­ca­tion of the Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs Pro­fes­sion­als So­ci­ety (RAPS), the largest glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion of and for those in­volved with the reg­u­la­tion of health­care and re­lat­ed prod­ucts, in­clud­ing med­ical de­vices, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, bi­o­log­ics and nu­tri­tion­al prod­ucts. Email news@raps.org for more in­for­ma­tion.

John Hood [file photo]

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