AMA aims at DTC ads again, this time to push inclusion of drug prices

Male doctor in white lab coat
Resolution 236 was introduced by New England medical societies from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Physicians attending the AMA annual conference in Chicago this weekend will again turn their attention to DTC ads with a new proposal to push drugmakers to list retail pricing, much like automakers do.

Resolution 236 was introduced by New England medical societies from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The actual language from the resolution reads that “such advertising should be required to state the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of those drugs.” It asks for the AMA to advocate to federal agencies including the FDA, FTC and FCC to regulate or influence DTC drug ads to include retail pricing.

Henry Dorkin, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said in an email statement to FiercePharma that while doctors realize the importance of prescription drugs and acknowledge the importance of recent groundbreaking medicines, “rapid and inexplicable increases in the prices of existing drugs (some of which have been in use for many decades), as well as the extraordinary high cost of breakthrough drugs, has left those medicines inaccessible for many of our patients, some with life-threatening consequences.”

The intent of the resolution is to bring pricing transparency to DTC advertising, he said, which the New England medical societies believe will help avoid surprise costs for patients, while also holding pharma companies accountable for the prices they set. The resolution would first need to pass the AMA House of Delegates before the larger AMA body would address it.

While MSRP listing is not unheard-of in the retail world—auto, appliance and electronics makers include product MSRPs—it would require a wholesale change in the often muddled multiplayer pricing environment in healthcare.

The AMA last took a significant stand on DTC advertising in 2015 when the group voted for a ban on all advertising for drugs and medical devices. That directive also noted pricing issues, with then-AMA board chair-elect Patrice Harris, M.D., pointing out that doctors were concerned "about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.”