CHICAGO – As prescription drug prices have spiked – often without reason – the American Medical Association has advocated for more transparency in pricing to protect patients. At its Annual Meeting, the AMA adopted several policies, including policies on direct-to-consumer ads and naloxone pricing that aim to give patients more information about drugs prescribed to them and shed light on the rationale for price increases.
“Taken together, these policies would bring much-needed transparency to drug pricing and provide a clear benefit to consumers struggling with exorbitant costs. There seems to be no logic – or warning – to these price spikes. In the case of naloxone, communities are struggling to afford a life-saving treatment. Sunlight is needed to help respond to price shifts because if the pricing trends continue, patients and communities will not be able to afford life-saving drugs,” said AMA President-elect Barbara L. McAneny, M.D.
One policy adopted calls on manufacturers to list the suggested retail prices of drugs when running direct-to-consumer ads. The AMA will urge the appropriate federal agencies to include that requirement. One study showed that prescriptions medications that were advertised directly to consumers saw an increase in prices by 34.2 percent compared to a 5.1-percent increase in other pharmaceuticals. 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. Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals was illegal in the United States until 1997 and is currently legal in only one other country, New Zealand.
The delegates also took aim at the sudden increase in the cost of naloxone, the life-saving drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Community groups, schools, first responders and local governments rely on naloxone to save lives every day but are finding it increasingly costly. The AMA will raise awareness of the troubling conduct of the three manufacturers of naloxone that enlisted the assistance of physician, community groups, and elected officials to raise awareness and coverage of naloxone only to precipitously and inexplicably dramatically increase prices as soon as public policy changed to increase access. The AMA also will support legislative, regulatory and national advocacy efforts to increase access to affordable naloxone.
Finally, for patients and physicians to get a handle on skyrocketing prescription prices, the delegates called on drug companies to give public notice before increasing the price of certain drugs by more than 10 percent during a 12-month period. This would generate information about the most egregious examples of price gouging, particularly for older drugs.
The AMA has been fighting for price transparency for drugs and created the website www.TruthInRx.org to hear from patients and their struggles to afford prescriptions. TruthInRx.org is an interactive site that gives consumers an opportunity to tell their stories of how rising prices are affecting their health and their pocketbooks. The site is home to a growing gallery of curated videos and testimonials. It gives supporters ways to take action, such as sending a message to Congress and sharing content within their social networks.