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Trump Administration Aims to Force Drug Companies to List Prices in Ads

FILE - Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in New York, Sept. 12, 2018.

The Department of Health and Human Services released proposed regulations Monday that would require companies selling drugs covered by Medicare or Medicaid that cost more than $35 to disclose prices in their television ads.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar framed the move as a way to reduce prices and protect consumers.

"Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they're being told about the benefits and risks it may have," Azar said in a speech to the National Academy of Medicine announcing the draft regulations. "They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV."

The policy, which was previously proposed by the Trump administration, has been roundly criticized by drug companies and policy experts. Trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has opposed it on the basis that listed prices only constitute a "starting point" for the true cost of a drug, which is brought down by insurers.

The move is likely to provoke rancor from America's large pharmaceutical industry. PhRMA president Steven Ubl tried to head off the anticipated announcement earlier Monday by announcing that ads by members of the trade group would begin directing viewers to websites that display the list price of drugs, as well as estimates of how much their insurance would cover.