Durbin Presses Senate To Support Bipartisan Amendments Requiring Drug Companies To Disclose Prices In Direct-To-Consumer Advertising

Bipartisan amendments would lower prescription drug spending, enhance pharmaceutical price transparency

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced two bipartisan amendments to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies funding bill – part of the “minibus” appropriations package being considered this week by the Senate – to clarify current law and provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with $1 million to implement rules requiring pharmaceutical companies to list prices of their prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements.  The bipartisan amendments would help to empower patients, promote transparency, and lower prescription drug costs. 

“Why is the pharmaceutical industry afraid to tell the consumers how much their drugs cost?  We shouldn’t wait to be surprised when we go to the pharmacy, when we stand by the register to pay for what we’re buying.  People have a right to know,” said Durbin.  “I’m calling on my colleagues, we have amendments 3611 and 3612.  Let’s put them on this bill.  Let’s address the serious concern which Americans have on the cost of prescription drugs.”

Last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $6 billion in DTC advertisements, which drive up health care costs by steering patients towards more expensive, often unnecessary medications.  The bipartisan amendments are cosponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the policy are endorsed by President Donald Trump, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.  A recent Kaiser Health News survey found that 76 percent of Americans—split evenly across political party—support this initiative.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

The average American sees nine DTC prescription drug ads each day.  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.  For these reasons, most countries have banned DTC prescription drug advertising, with the United States and New Zealand being the only two developed countries that allow it.  The American Medical Association has called for a ban on DTC prescription drug advertisements, as well as mandatory price disclosure as part of prescription drug marketing. 

In November 2017, Durbin introduced legislation that will empower patients and promote transparency by requiring the pharmaceutical industry to provide more information about the cost of drugs in their advertisements.  The Drug-price Transparency in Communications (DTC) Act of 2017 would require drug companies to disclose the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of a prescription medication in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and in marketing to prescribers.

In May 2018, Durbin sent letters to top pharmaceutical companies urging them to voluntarily list the price of their drugs in their advertisements to consumers.