Patients agree with list prices in drug ads—even if they don't like them, survey finds

Drugs and money
Patients confirm the importance of price transparency and give a thumbs up to list prices in TV ads in new survey. (Getty/LIgorko)

Politicians, trade groups, lobbyists and even doctors have weighed in on the new Trump administration rule requiring drug list prices in TV ads. But what do patients think?

Thumbs up, mostly, according to a survey by WeGo Health. The company checked in with 550 influential patients and found the majority value drug price transparency and the new rule.

For instance, while seven in 10 of the patients, who are opinion leaders in their fields, said they don’t think pharma is transparent about drug prices, three-fourths (76%) said it’s “extremely” important to consumers. On the specific rule requiring list prices in TV ads, 81% of the patient leaders said it will help consumers “make informed decisions that minimize their out-of-pocket costs.”

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Few of the survey respondents knew about the rule, though—and that suggests even fewer average citizens do. Only about one-third of the patient leaders had heard about the guideline, which is set to go into effect in July, said David Goldsmith, chief strategy officer at WeGo Health.

RELATED: List it: Pharma officially has to add drug prices to TV ads, and pronto, HHS says

To help survey respondents not familiar with the rule, WeGo showed them websites—from Eli Lilly’s psoriasis drug Taltz and Johnson & Johnson’s anticoagulant Xarelto—that already include list price and other cost information.

WeGo then asked the patient leaders for their opinions about how the information was presented and how well they understood it. About one-third noted the information was helpful, but 50% still responded negatively.

Why? The key takeaway, Goldsmith said, was that the information drugmakers offered didn't show each person specifically how much they would likely have to pay.

“So even in these instances where you have websites where you can scroll down and click for more information, you have people raising the question of how helpful is it to them, or to others who want to better understand out-of-pocket costs?" Goldsmith said. "Which begs the question, how in the world is this going to work with TV ads?”

RELATED: Flipping the patient? New WeGo Health platform offers quick access to patient experts

In fact, that patient reaction aligns with a concern quoted by industry trade groups and the companies themselves—and one Goldsmith himself has heard from pharma executives. List prices in TV ads, these critics say, will confuse people who try to reconcile the flat-fee number with their personal out-of-pocket costs.

Any good news? Goldsmith did point out that over time, it’s possible that consumers will perceive price transparency in TV ads and on drug websites—and that, in turn, might begin to shift consumer perceptions of the industry. Seeing drugmakers as more open and accountable might improve overall opinions of the companies and the pharma industry.

Another plus may be that, in the case of drugs with high price tags, people may be more likely to seek out patient assistance they wouldn't otherwise be aware of.

“We know there are a lot more questions we’d like to have answered, but we wanted to get an understanding now of whether people think this is important,” Goldsmith said.

"We know this isn't going away. We have patient key opinion leaders who say transparency is really important and that they do think people will make different decisions if they have a better understanding of cost," he added. "Now we need to help them determine what information is going to be most useful in making that a reality."

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