Oct 16, 2018

Drug ads will have to include prices

HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services formally rolled out a proposal yesterday that would require drug companies to include their products’ list prices in their TV ads, similar to the way they disclose side effects.

The big picture: There’s a legitimate debate about how this would work and how big a difference it will make. But it is, notably, the first real showdown with the pharmaceutical industry since the administration released its drug-pricing plan earlier this year.

  • "It has taken them five months ... to start skating to where the puck is going," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said yesterday.

Details: Drugmakers will have to disclose the list prices — the wholesale acquisition cost, to be specific — in TV ads for every drug reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid, as long as the price is more than $35 for a month’s prescription.

  • The regulation ended up coming from Medicare and Medicaid, rather than the FDA, because those agencies have a mission to control costs — which may help put the rule on more solid legal footing.
  • Price disclosures will only have to be in text, not voiceover. Officials said that would make the rules less onerous for drug companies.
  • HHS would enforce the rules by publishing a list of companies and products that didn’t comply, and noncompliance could also trigger lawsuits.

What’s next, from the industry side: The pharmaceutical industry suggested yesterday that it's likely to challenge the rules in court once they're finalized, alleging a First Amendment violation.

What's next, from the regulatory side: The administration is considering more rules cracking down on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The White House is reviewing a proposal to rein in their lucrative rebates.

  • “We believe today's rebates, which helped drive list prices skyward, are not necessary to a strong negotiating ecosystem,” Azar said yesterday. “They could be replaced with fixed-price up-front discounts.”

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

George Floyd protests: Unrest continues for 6th night across U.S.

A protest near the White House on Sunday night. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Most external lights at the White House were turned off late Sunday as the D.C. National Guard was deployed and authorities fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters nearby, per the New York Times.

What's happening: It's one of several tense, late-night standoffs between law enforcement and demonstrators in the United States.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Journalists get caught in the crosshairs as protests unfold

A man waves a Black Lives Matter flag atop the CNN logo outside the CNN Center during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protesters.

Driving the news: The violence got so bad over the weekend that on Sunday the Cleveland police said the media was not allowed downtown unless "they are inside their place of business" — drawing ire from news outlets around the country, who argued that such access is a critical part of adequately covering protests.

Inside Trump's antifa tweet

President Trump at Cape Canaveral on May 30. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").