Advertising, Politics

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 Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — was offered and subsequently withdrawn during a joint conference committee of the House and Senate, despite passing the Senate last month.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.


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