Changes Proposed to Prescription Drug Commercials

December 14, 2018


In May of 2018, the Trump Administration committed to lowering the costs of prescription drugs and out-of-pocket spending for patients. CSC commented on those ideas and we hope you will take a moment to read more about our positions in our letter to the Administration.

One of the ways in which the Administration suggested meeting this goal was by changing the information available to consumers in television ads that market medications. Currently, drug companies are only required to disclose the potential side effects a drug can have in their direct to consumer television (DTC) advertisements. The Administration has proposed a new rule that would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose the “list price” of drugs. The list price is the initial price set by drug companies and is not necessarily the price that the patient will pay for the drug. This list price serves as a basis for negotiation and complex calculations that happen between manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers, wholesalers, or insurance companies. All of these factors and more can dramatically change the price a patient will encounter when they go to the pharmacy counter.

The goal of the proposed rule is to provide consumers with relevant information about the costs of prescription drugs so that they can make informed decisions about their care and out-of-pocket spending.  

What Could This Mean for Patients?

CSC believes that consumers need more transparency to better understand their full health care cost obligations. However, many patients will not pay list price for their prescription medications once insurance coverage and other resources are factored in. Providing such limited information to consumers could be misleading, cause distress, and deter patients from seeking appropriate treatment. Consumers need access to wide-ranging information regarding their anticipated out-of-pocket cost obligations across the health care system—including medications, treatment options, various sites of care, and related expenses such as transportation, supportive care, durable medical equipment, etc. Consumers need information to understand their treatment options as well as supports and resources available to help them pay for their care.

What’s Next?

We encourage you to take a moment to read our full comment letter to the Administration on the DTC proposed rule.

If you are struggling to understand treatment options or costs of care, CSC has resources to help. When you are diagnosed with cancer, it can be challenging to understand new information and make decisions that are right for you and your family. Our Open to Options decision support counseling program and the CSC Cancer Support Helpline (888-793-9355) can help you prepare to make those decisions and better understand resources available to you. It is also important that you talk to your health care team and your insurance provider when making important treatment decisions.