Doctors Call On Big Pharma To Advertise Retail Prices Of Prescription Drugs

Image courtesy of Sarah Braun

Think of the last prescription you had filled: You probably know how much you had to pay the pharmacy, but do you have any idea of the full sticker price for that medication? With many drug prices soaring, the nation’s largest physicians organization has called on the pharmaceuticals industry to be more transparent about the sometimes huge price tags on their products.

During a presentation at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting this week, the AMA argued that additional drug pricing transparency will help patients by allowing them to compare costs.

The AMA contends that patients are often asking for specific, high-cost brand-name prescription drugs because they see those meds advertised in print and on TV.

“Pharmaceutical companies know their advertising pays off by having patients pressure physicians to prescribe certain medications that cost more than lower-cost alternatives and are not necessarily as efficacious,” the organization said in a statement.

Because patients seek out these prescriptions, AMA, citing an unnamed study, suggests that manufacturers are then able to increase their prices with little warning or fanfare.

The study referenced by AMA found that prescription medications advertised directly to potential customers saw a 34.2% increase in price, compared to the 5.1% price increase for medications that were not directly marketed to patients.

Additionally, the group called on drug companies to give the public notice before increase the price of certain drugs by more than 10% during a 12-month period.

This, the group says, will “generate information about the most egregious examples of price gouging, particularly for older drugs.”

This isn’t the first time AMA has taken aim at the way prescription drugs are advertised. In Nov. 2015, the group adopted a policy to support a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

Another policy adopted by AMA this week took aim at the sudden price increase of naloxone, the life-saving drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

The AMA says it will raise awareness of the “troubling conduct of the three manufacturers of naloxone” by enlisting the assistance of physician, community groups, and elected officials to raise awareness and coverage of naloxone price increases, while working to “support legislative, regulatory, and national advocacy efforts to increase access to affordable naloxone.”