Here come drug prices in TV ads

A final rule is still in the works at HHS, but some manufacturers are testing the inclusion of prices in TV ads


According to a report in FiercePharmaMarketing, J&J’s Janssen unit might be the first US pharma company to include price information in its TV advertising for Xarelto, a widely used blood thinner. The ads, which include a $448 list price for a 30-pill dose, “along with a range of typical out-of-pocket costs.” (Meanwhile, BlinkHealth, a popular drug-pricing service, lists the going price at $425.27.) Even so, the Xarelto website currently does not include the pricing information. After some digging around, customers can find a page giving copious details about the Janssen CarePath program, downloadable apps, and patient assistance programs.

The price mention occurs after last year’s Trump Administration position, in its healthcare-costs “blueprint,” to compel all pharma companies doing television advertising to include the data. The comment period for the proposal ended late last year, and a final rule from HHS is expected. In response, PhRMA has taken the position that “Direct-to-consumer (DTC) television advertisements from PhRMA member companies will soon direct patients to information about medicine costs,” starting around now. “Direct patients to information” is different from “tell,” obviously, at least in the context of what shows up on the TV screen.

Knowledgeable industry people—and at least some consumers—know that list price of a drug is just one bit of data in a pool of different pricing arrangements through doctor’s offices, health systems, mail order pharmacies and other supply chain participants; drug price depends on the channel and payer arrangement by which a drug is purchased. But the Trump Administration is apparently banking on a perception that, if a drug’s price is extraordinarily high, some degree of public criticism of the manufacturer will compel it to lower the price; or that competing drugs will be able to position themselves favorably against the high-priced option once drug prices are more widely publicized. Both of these are questionable suppositions; the whole effort could go in a sideways direction, with claims of cheaper pricing outweighing medical efficacy in patients’ views. Finally, it’s worth noting that the US remains one of the few countries in the world that allow pharma advertising on television.