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Big Drug Makers Sue to Block Mandatory Price Disclosures in TV Ads: Brainstorm Health

Drug price TV ad lawsuitDrug price TV ad lawsuit
Drug makers aren't happy about the proposed regulation. PeopleImages Getty Images

Happy Friday, readers!

In what may be one of the least unexpected lawsuits against a proposed federal rule in recent history, drug giants Merck, Eli Lilly, Amgen, and the Association of National Advertisers are challenging the Trump administration’s bid to require TV drug advertisements to include the products’ list prices.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized the proposed rule in May. It would force pharmaceutical companies to publicize a treatment’s list price tag but has been criticized by the industry for alleged shortcomings and free speech concerns.

Amgen outlined some of those protestations in a statement on Friday. “Not only does the rule raise serious freedom of speech concerns, it mandates an approach that fails to account for differences among insurance, treatments and patients themselves, by requiring disclosure of list price,” the company said in a statement. “Most importantly, it does not answer the fundamental question patients are asking: ’What will I have to pay for my medicine?”

The latter issue has been raised by several organizations who note that list prices aren’t the same thing as the net prices that patients pay. However, others retort that it’s a still an important move toward a more transparent drug advertising process, and that the industry opposition is yet another case of health care sector hot potato pointing the blame for high prices at other links in the supply chain.

Some companies have taken a different approach. For instance, Johnson & Johnson recently became the first firm to voluntarily disclose a drug’s list price in its ads for the popular blood thinner Xarelto; to mitigate some of the concerns listed in the new pharma lawsuit against the mandatory disclosures, J&J decided to list both the list price and the common out of pocket costs usually owed by consumers.

It’s worth remembering that the U.S. in one of the only countries in the world that allows direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising at all.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Bipartisan Senate duo releases health data privacy bill. With mounting consumer and watchdog concerns over health data privacy, a bipartisan pair of Senators have unveiled new legislation aimed at protecting information gathered via wearable sensors and consumer DNA testing services such as 23andMe. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) unveiled the Protecting Personal Health Data Act. The legislation “addresses health privacy concerns by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate regulations for new health technologies such as health apps, wearable devices like Fitbits, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits that are not regulated by existing laws,” they wrote in a statement. “New technologies have made it easier for people to monitor their own health, but health tracking apps and home DNA testing kits have also given companies access to personal, private data with limited oversight,” said Klobuchar.

INDICATIONS

Bluebird stock sinks after aggressive gene therapy pricing decision. Shares of Bluebird Bio sank 5% in Friday trading after the company’s pricing for a gene therapy in Europe gave some investors sticker shock – and, perhaps, others a reason to doubt exactly when the high list price will pay off in revenues. Bluebird’s Zynteglo for the rare blood disorder beta-thalassemia will ring in at a $1.8 million list price in the E.U. (a price that CEO Nick Leschly defended as cost-effective since it’s a cure); but, similar to some other firms pursuing aggressive prices for specialty medications, Bluebird says patients will only have to pay that full list price is the treatment actually works, and can pay in installments over years.

THE BIG PICTURE

World Health Organization (WHO) won’t declare international emergency over Ebola transmissions. The WHO has made a controversial call (for now anyways) not to declare the Ebola outbreak in central Africa an international emergency. That’s despite the deadly virus’ recent crossing from a conflict-ridden region of the Congo into Uganda, the first such international crossing of Ebola for the first time in this outbreak. Health authorities said it would be unlikely for the virus to spread even further across boundaries. (The Hill)

REQUIRED READING

The Tragedy of the Digital Commons: RaceAheadby Ellen McGirt

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Bayer Commits $5.6 Billion Following Weedkiller Lawsuitsby Bloomberg

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
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