U.S. Senate Spending Bill Calls for TV Ad Price Disclosure of Drugs, Increases Spending on Alzheimer’s Research

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A spending bill passed in the U.S. Senate includes provisions taking aim at the high cost of prescription medicines by requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose the cost of medications in television advertisements.

The call to require the cost of medications is part of President Donald Trump’s recent proposals as a way to address the high costs of prescription medicines. Calls for disclosing the drugmakers’ prices in television ads has been opposed by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main lobbying arm of the agency. PhRMA has suggested that requiring the manufacturer’s price could “confuse patients” due to that not being the price they would ultimately play, The Hill noted in its report of the spending bill.

In May President Trump released a drug pricing reform proposal that included the notion of acknowledgment of pricing in television commercials, as well as taking on pharmacy benefits managers. Earlier this week Health and Human Services Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly executive, said the issue of drug rebates, which are negotiated by PBMs, can be addressed by his department. The rebates are part of the current pricing system that are supposed to reduce the cost of prescription medications. The president’s plan also gives pharmacists more latitude in advising patients on the most cost-effective treatments that is available to them under their insurance plan. The Senate spending bill does not address those other issues.

In addition to supporting the television advertising approach, the Senate spending plan also provides $2.3 billion for additional Alzheimer’s research. The Associated Press reported that the increase in spending is “essentially quadrupling spending levels” set four years ago “on a disease that requires hundreds of billions of dollars for dementia-related care.” Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and chair of the Appropriations subcommittee on labor and health, said if the United States does not find a solution to Alzheimer’s disease by 2050, “we will be spending about twice today’s defense budget on Alzheimer’s care,” the AP reported.

Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While it’s one of the leading causes of death, the drug companies developing treatments for this disease are running into a new problem (beyond not having been very successful in late-stage development). The problem is too few Alzheimer’s patients are participating in clinical trials. BioSpace reported today that a new national strategy has been implemented to address this problem. The plan is aimed at recruiting more trial participants through various forms of outreach. The strategy will work with primary care physicians, who are often the first point-of-contact for AD patients. The new strategy also focuses on improving infrastructure, including sufficient staffing to conduct an 18 to 24-month clinical trial, BioSpace reported.

In addition to additional Alzheimer’s disease funding, the Senate’s mini-spending bill also provides a $145 million increase for opioid addiction treatment. Opioid abuse has become a national epidemic and is something the Trump administration has taken an active role in trying to address.

The Senate spending plan has not yet been approved by the U.S. House.

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