Drug Makers Are Fighting Requirement Changes In TV Ads

Published on June 17, 2019

Healthcare in the United States has long been a subject of controversy between political parties. While we all sit around and argue about whether or not universal healthcare should be part of the norm, we can probably all agree on one thing: healthcare is expensive. The Trump Administration, in an effort to combat rising prescription drug costs, has finalized a plan to require all pharmaceutical companies to disclose prices, if they exceed $35/month, in TV ads. Naturally drug makers are fighting the new law. But not even a lawsuit can stop it from coming into fruition, and consumers can expect drug ads to include prices in the near future.

The New Law

A new law, proposed by Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, says that drug makers will have to disclose the prices of their products in advertisements if the price of the drug retails for more than $35/month. The move was part of an initiative to increase transparency in the medical industry, as many drugs can cost up to a few thousand dollars per month. Drug companies are already forced to include side effects in their ads. Prices were the logical next step.

The privatized healthcare industry has often been able to capitalize in ways that they would not be able to in other countries. Daraprim, the $750 AIDS medication that Martin Shkreli owned the rights to, could be considered the best example of price gauging in the world of privatized healthcare. The drug has been around for quite some time, but when Shkreli purchased the rights to it he was able to hike the price up by nearly 5000% in just a matter of weeks. Daraprim was created to treat parasitic infections, but has long been used by AIDS and cancer patients.

While the United States may be one of the only countries in the world where an advertisement for a prescription drug will grace the TV screen during the primetime news, its lawmakers are slowly working toward making those advertisements more transparent. Patient advocacy groups around the country have argued that these ads convince patients to purchase drugs that cost more than other alternatives. The groups also argue that they often sell patients on drugs they may not need.


Drug makers are fighting the new law as much as they can. Pharmaceutical companies are arguing that the new law may be misleading to potential customers with insurance. While the retail price of a drug may be in the thousands, the patient could end up paying only $50 out of pocket after insurance covers much of the cost. However, this only fuels the already high prices of privatized insurance in the United States. Advocates for universal healthcare have slammed such insurance agencies for charging sky high rates simply because they can.

The proposal for the new law (which you can read here, if you feel so inclined) will mean that Americans are soon going to see prices appear in many drug ads on TV. Experts think that the rule will force pharmaceutical companies to rethink sky high drug prices in the future, driving down the cost for consumers. “We are moving from a system where people are left in the dark to a system where patients are put in the driver’s seat,” said Azar in a press conference at the White House. The new law will go into effect over the summer.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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