General medicine

Johnson & Johnson said Thursday it will start giving the list price of its prescription drugs in television ads. The health care giant will begin with its popular blood thinner, Xarelto, said Scott White, head of J&J’s North American pharmaceutical marketing. By late March, commercials will give the pill’s list price plus typical out-of-pocket costs.

Insurance information

The information will appear on screen at the end of the commercial and include a website where; people can enter insurance information to get more specific costs. Without insurance, Xarelto costs $450 to $540 per month, depending on the pharmacy. About 1 million Xarelto prescriptions are filled in the U.S. each month.

J&J’s move comes amid growing scrutiny of soaring brand-name drug prices and follows a Trump administration proposal to require list prices in TV ads. The pharmaceutical industry opposes that, arguing few people pay the high list prices. Some people’s out-of-pocket costs, though, are based on list prices.

Price transparency

The main drug maker trade group instead recommends TV ads start listing a website that gives possible out-of-pocket costs and list prices. Last month, Eli Lilly started doing so, in ads for diabetes medicine Trulicity. Johnson & Johnson said on Thursday it will start adding the price of its medicines to television commercials by next month, becoming the first drug maker to heed a call by U.S. President Donald Trump for price transparency of drugs advertised directly to consumers on TV.

The healthcare conglomerate said it will include both the list price of a product the price before any rebates or discounts to insurers or pharmacy benefit managers  as well as potential out-of-pocket costs that patients will pay. The move; announced in a statement on J&J’s website, won swift praise from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Last May; Azar’s office released a blueprint for reducing the cost of drug prices; which included a proposal to require disclosure of list prices in TV ads for drugs.

Prescription drugs

“We commend Johnson & Johnson for recognizing the value of informing consumers about list prices and for doing so voluntarily. We call on other manufacturers to follow their lead,” Azar said in a statement. Because Trump made lowering the cost of prescription drugs for U.S. consumers a central issue of the 2016 presidential campaign and emphasized it again in his State of the Union Address this week.
Congress has increased its scrutiny of U.S. drug pricing since Democrats took over control of the House of Representatives in January; while pressure is also coming from the Republican-led Senate. Because Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, ranking member of the committee, on Monday invited executives from seven pharmaceutical companies, including J&J, to testify at a Feb. 26 hearing on rising drug prices.