Johnson and Johnson agrees to start advertising prices

By LAURA WADSTEN | February 21, 2019

As the Trump administration presses drug companies to include prices in their advertisements, some large companies are pushing back while others are stepping ahead. 

According to a congressional report released in March 2018, the prices of the 20 most commonly prescribed brand name drugs for senior citizens have risen almost 10 times more than the annual rate of inflation for the past five years. The Trump administration wants to combat this by promoting competition within the pharmaceutical industry. 

The specific regulation proposed by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is to require drug manufacturers to include the list price of any drug covered by Medicare or Medicaid in television ads. 

Including prices in advertisements is meant to increase transparency in the industry, but many large companies oppose the measure. Johnson and Johnson, one of the largest health-care product companies globally, has recently reversed their stance on the issue. In reports to the government, the company had argued that the measure would create, “additional confusion in an already complex health system.” They have since announced that they will be following the suggestion of the president.

Johnson and Johnson is the first company to take this step, as they have voluntarily decided to provide the listing price and potential patient costs in advertisements for Xarelto, its most frequently prescribed medicine, beginning in March. The company said that their advertisements will also direct viewers to seek additional information online, as promoted by pharmaceutical lobbyist group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Xarelto, which is a blood thinner, has an estimated retail price of about $500 for 30 tablets, according to GoodRx, a website that provides cost comparisons of pharmaceutical products. 

Experts have questioned the effectiveness of including list prices of medicine in ads, as most people with insurance pay far less or even nothing at all for their medications. 

One concern experts have expressed about advertising list prices is that doing so may discourage patients from seeking drugs that they would be able to afford with their insurance.

In an interview with The News-Letter junior Emily Sturm echoed concerns over the possible disadvantages of featuring drug prices in advertisements. 

“There are benefits and disadvantages to it... it can be kind of bad because it does not take into account what kind of insurance you have, and that could affect the price. Also, it could turn some people off of [the drug] because they might think it’s too expensive and that they could not afford it even if they do need the drug,” Sturm said.

The public perceptions of pharmaceutical companies are largely negative. Based on the results of a Gallup poll from 2016, only 28 percent of respondents reported feeling positively about the pharmaceutical industry; the only industry

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