Lawmakers Deny Proposal to Require Drug Pricing in Television Ads


A federal appropriations bill will not include bipartisan provision that would have required drug manufacturers to be more transparent with costs to consumers after it was blocked by House Republicans.

A federal appropriations bill will not include a bipartisan provision that would have required drug manufacturers to be more transparent with costs to consumers after it was blocked by House Republicans.1 Jointly sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the provision would have required list prices included in direct-to-consumer television advertising.

The provision was part of the Trump administration’s drug pricing blueprint, and had received support from both political parties.1 Both Durbin and Grassley took to social media after the provision failed to move forward, to comment on the outcome, expressing disappointment with fellow members of Congress.

In a series of tweets, Durbin said the provision was widely supported by lawmakers, as well as national health organizations, including the American Medical Association, and health insurers. According to the senator, the measure was opposed only by drug manufacturers and members of Congress who support those companies.

The #1 driver for increases in premiums are Rx drugs & TV drug ads inflate drug spending without telling patients how much it costs. It's disappointing this measure was pulled at the last minute by House GOP. We need transparency & it's time to put consumers ahead of Big Pharma.

— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) September 13, 2018

My amendment with @ChuckGrassley & @SenAngusKing was supported by both parties, @AARP, American Medical Association, health insurance plans, 76% of Americans, Pres Trump & HHS. The only group who opposed it? Big Pharma & their Representatives in Congress:

— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) September 13, 2018

Also on Twitter, Grassley indicated members of Congress wee bowing to drug manufacturers at the expense of consumers. “It is embarrassing," he said.

Hearing rumors my bipartisan Durbin/Grassley legis to make drug companies list prices on TV ads is out of spending bill It is EMBARRASSING to bow to BIG PHARMA at expense of consumers Policy is supported by Pres Trump+AARP+Dem&GOP Sens If we can agree why are lobbyists fighting?

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 13, 2018

Industry officials did indeed take issue with the amendment; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spoke out against the proposal in its July comments to HHS on the administration’s drug pricing blueprint, saying “FDA should not pursue any required disclose of list prices in direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. Such a requirement could confuse patients since the list price often does not represent what they would actually be required to pay.”2

Exclusion of the amendment appears to counter public sentiment; a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly 76% of the public supports the inclusion of list prices in television ads.3

The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of health care professionals, including pharmacists, called the exclusion of the provision a “major opportunity” missed to help lower drug prices.4

This 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 campaign officials, in a prepared statement.4 “Requiring drug makers to disclose prices in direct-to-consumer advertising is not only strongly supported by the American public, bipartisan Members of Congress and the Administration, it’s simply the right thing to do. Just as patients need to know about the possible side effects of a drug, they also need to know how much it costs and if there are more affordable treatments available.

In a prepared statement, the organization also applauded the efforts of Durbin and Grassley to address the issue of drug prices and promoting transparency.4


  • Mulero A. Lawmakers Halt Push for Drug Prices in TV Ads. Regulatory Focus website. Published September 17, 2018. Accessed September 2018.
  • RFI Comments on HHS Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs. PhRMA website. Published July 16, 2018. Accessed September 2018.
  • Kaiser Health Tracking Poll—June 2018: Campaigns, Pre-Existing Conditions, and Prescription Drug Ads. Kaiser Family Foundation website. Published June 27, 2018. Accessed September 2018
  • CSRxP statement on exclusion of brig pharma accountability amendment in appropriations bill. Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing website. Published September 13, 2018. Accessed September 2018.

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