CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge’s ruling that struck down a Trump administration rule requiring prescription drugmakers to include prices in their television ads is a setback, but won’t stop Sen. Chuck Grassley from pursing legislation to mandating that information.
“People don’t buy cars or any other products without knowing the price, and medication should be no different,” Grassley said Wednesday.
A judge ruled Monday that the federal Department of Health and Human Services lacked authority to compel drug manufacturers to disclose wholesale prices in their advertising. The rule was to take effect Tuesday.
“Of course, Big Pharma doesn’t like that, so they sued and Big Pharma won,” Grassley said. “Apparently a little daylight is too much for Big Pharma. Rather than level with the American public about the sky-high cost of their drugs — when they run their non-stop ads — Pharma sued to block patients from knowing the price.”
Despite the setback, “I’m not discouraged,” Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters.
He plans to continue to work with Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin on legislation to require pharmaceutical companies to include price information on the drugs they advertise direct to consumers.
The average American sees nine direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads each day, according to Grassley. Studies show that patients are more likely to ask their doctor for a specific brand-name medication, and doctors are more likely to prescribe one, when they have been marketed directly with drug advertisements.
“There is a severe lack of transparency in the health care system,” he said. “My direct-to-consumer measure would shine light on outrageous costs of medication and give health care consumers information they need to make the best decision for their circumstances.”
The legislation has been endorsed by AARP, the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.
The Grassley-Durbin amendment to require price information was adopted by the GOP-controlled Senate, but dropped from the final bill because of lack of support in the Democratic-controlled House, Grassley said.
Later Wednesday, speaking on the Senate floor, Grassley said “prescription medicine too often smacks consumers with sticker shock at the pharmacy counter. The soaring prices leave taxpayers with a big tab. And they weigh heavily on the minds of moms and dads across the country.”
He was joined by Sen. Joni Ernst, vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference, and others in calling for measures to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
Ernst and Grassley say the cost of prescription drugs comes up at nearly every town hall meeting they do around the state.
“Iowans want to know why prices keep climbing higher and higher,” Grassley said. “They want to know why the price of insulin keeps going up and up and up — nearly 100 years after the lifesaving discovery was made. They want to know what can be done to make prescription medicine more affordable.”
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