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May 14, 2019

King, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Make Recent Drug Price Transparency Shift Permanent

Bipartisan coalition seeks to lock in administration rule mirroring King proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to disclose prices in advertising

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in introducing bipartisan legislation codifying recent regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require pharmaceutical companies to list prices of their prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements. This legislation ensures long-term implementation and clarity of this common-sense price transparency requirement, and builds off King’s legislative efforts over the past six years.

“Last week, the Administration took an important step in the fight to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable as the American people struggle with the costs of prescription drugs – now, Congress should do its part and make this change permanent,” said Senator King. “For decades pharmaceutical companies have hidden the prices of their drugs while advertising these costly medications to the public – but no more. It’s time for real transparency, so the American people can understand what they’re being sold. This bipartisan, commonsense solution is just the start, and I’ll continue working alongside my colleagues to cut drug prices for the Americans who rely on these medications.”

In 2018, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $6 billion in DTC advertisements, which drive up health care costs by steering patients towards more expensive medications. 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. 

Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan amendment led by King, Durbin, and Grassley to the Defense-Labor-HHS-Education appropriations “minibus” package that provides HHS with $1 million to implement rules requiring pharmaceutical companies to list prices of their prescription drugs in DTC advertisements. The amendment aimed to help empower patients, promote transparency, and lower prescription drug costs.  Ultimately, the amendment was stripped from the bill during the House-Senate conference process.

In addition to his support of the legislation mirroring this now-final rule, Senator King has supported a number of commonsense bills to drive down the costs of medication in the United States. In February, he joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce legislation that would deter pharmaceutical companies from blocking cheaper generic alternatives from entering the marketplace – a proposal that would save consumers billions of dollars.  In January, he cosponsored three bills to reduce the costs of prescription drugs. The first bill, the End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, would prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses, and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries. The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act would allow for Medicare to negotiate the best possible price of prescription drugs to cut costs for nearly 43 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and prohibits Medicare from doing so. 

The legislation has been endorsed by AARP, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, and Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.

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