“All of this advertisement on pharmaceuticals that you see on TV with all the warnings and all the advantages, ought to include the price,” Grassley says, “like we do on the window of a car.” Reports say the average American sees nine DTC — or direct-to-consumer — prescription drug ads every day. Grassley, a Republican, explains why everything should be up-front in those ads.
“So that the consumers cannot get the run-around from different salesmen, in this case, don’t get the run-around from different pharmaceutical companies,” Grassley says. “The pharmaceutical companies don’t like that.” Drug-makers spent more than six-billion dollars last year on DTC ads, which Grassley says drive up health care costs by steering patients toward more expensive, often-unnecessary medications. Grassley favors forcing pharmaceutical companies to provide pricing information in their ads.
“Our amendment got through the Senate but didn’t get through the House,” Grassley says. “Regardless, the secretary of HHS has the authority to do just what our amendment was requiring him to do, so, he’s moving ahead even without our amendment.” Knowing the U.S. Senate has his back, Grassley says the secretary wants to force drug companies to put prices on their ads.
“I’d like to think this might bring down the price of pharmaceuticals, which is very important,” Grassley says. “The reason I think it will is because I think they’re going to be embarrassed about what some of the prices are and they’re going to price them more accordingly.”
Studies show patients are more likely to ask their doctor for a specific brand-name drug, and doctors are more likely to prescribe one, when they have been the subject of direct marketing. Most countries have banned DTC prescription drug advertising, with the U.S. and New Zealand being the only two developed countries that allow it.