Pharmaceutical companies will be required to include the list price of certain prescription drugs in television advertisements, in a move that the Trump administration believes will help drive down prices.

The rule, expected to come into force in the summer, is limited to those drugs costing more than $35 a month, but could have a major impact on a TV ad market worth more than $4bn.

“We are moving from a system where people are left in the dark to a system where patients are put in the driver’s seat,” said health and human services secretary Alex M. Azar II, in remarks reported by the New York Times.

But pharmaceutical companies have argued that this could be confusing for patients who frequently pay far less than the list price thanks to their insurance cover, although the ads will state that the costs may differ in such cases.

Another contention is that patients could be put off talking to their doctors about a particular medication if they believe they can’t afford it. Patient advocacy groups, however, maintain that TV drug ads have steered people towards high-priced medications they do not need.

The drug lobby PhRMA has been pushing an alternative solution that would not put prices in ads, but direct people to a weblink that, it argues, supplies more context and advice, depending on a person’s level of cover (Medicare, commercial insurance, not insured).

Not all of the industry is opposed, however: Johnson & Johnson has already aired commercials for its blood thinner Xarelto that include the drug’s list price and potential out-of-pocket costs.

And that’s “a really smart PR move”, according to Nick Florko of the news site Stat, which covers health and medicine.

“The Trump administration has been eager to shame drug companies for their lack of enthusiasm around this proposal,” he told NPR. “It’s praised J&J at every turn. In an era where you are worried about Trump’s tweets and what they say about you, this is really good press.”

Such considerations are unlikely to prevent the industry taking legal action, claiming that the requirement violates their first amendment rights.

Sourced from New York Times, NPR; additional content by WARC staff