U.S. wants drug makers to disclose medicine prices in TV ads

The federal government wants to force drug makers to disclose prices for prescription medicines in their TV commercials.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar unveiled a proposal Monday to require drug companies to list prices in TV ads. The law would apply to brand-name drugs that are covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, if a typical course of treatment costs more than $35 a month.

"Right now, drug companies are required to disclose the major side effects a drug can have—but not the effect that buying the drug could have on your wallet. Patients deserve more transparency," HHS said in a statement.

Hours before his speech, the drug industry's main trade group, PhRMA, said it was willing to reveal drug price on websites, but not in commercials. The drugmakers said they would provide a website in the ads that would include the list price and likely out-of-pocket costs. Listing prices in commercials, it said, "could discourage patients from seeking needed medical care."

But Azar said putting the prices on a website isn't the same thing and patients deserve to know the cost.

Most patients don't pay a drug's full list price, but insurance plans use it to set base patients' copayments. And patients with high deductibles or no insurance do sometimes pay the full price. Nearly half of Americans are in high-deductible health plans, HHS said.