How to trump the Trump administration? For J&J, it’s putting list prices in ads before it’s forced to

Donald Trump
J&J is getting ahead of a potential regulation to add drug list prices to TV ads, proposed last year by the Trump administration. (C-SPAN)

Johnson & Johnson will put list prices in its drug TV ads. It’s the first pharma to announce that plan, self-regulating ahead of a proposed Trump administration rule that would force all pharma companies to add list prices to TV commercials.

J&J pharma arm Janssen will begin with its most prescribed drug, the oral anticoagulant Xarelto, adding both list price and potential out-of-pocket costs to its TV spots later this quarter. It will add prices to its other medicines, too, J&J said in a statement. It’s planning to weigh patient and consumer feedback on the Xarelto changes as it rolls out the follow-ups.

J&J’s move combines the Health & Human Services list price mandate with the pricing principle plan that members of the trade association PhRMA agreed upon earlier this year. That plan would offer consumers a broader explanation of costs by linking ads to online or telephone explanations of expected out-of-pocket expenses and insurance coverage.

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The proposal is currently awaiting HHS’ next move after the public comment period ended in December with 146 responses filed by pharma, healthcare industry players, physicians and consumers.

In J&J’s statement announcing the move, it commended the administration for opening the door to its thoughts on pricing transparency and doubled down on its support for PhRMA’s reworked guidelines as “an important self-imposed industry standard.”

Eli Lilly was the first pharma to adopt the PhRMA principles last month, adding a mention at the end of its Trulicity ads redirecting patients to a Lilly website or 800 number to get the diabetes medicine’s list price, estimated out-of-pocket costs and patient assistance program information. Lilly said it plans to do the same for all its meds by the end of this month.

J&J’s move may prove to be a prescient one. A study published in JAMA last month found that the impact of a high list price in advertising was mitigated by a disclaimer pointing out copay help that would reduce consumer out-of-pocket costs to as low as $0.

RELATED: Senator to Pfizer CEO: Stop playing 'political games' with drug prices

J&J’s Thursday statement only included plans to put list prices in direct-to-consumer TV ads, not other media. That follows its thinking outlined in a formal response to the HHS proposal; there, it opposed expanding list-price disclosure beyond TV to print, digital and other media due to “space, size and time constraints.” J&J’s reply also advocated for allowing additional pricing information, new payment codes to cover doctors’ speaking to patients about drug costs, and transparency rules for other players, such as hospitals, pharmacy benefits managers and insurers.

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