Indianapolis, IN & New York, NY — Two pharma leaders, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson, have begun disclosing product list prices in their TV commercials, taking the plunge that many brands are still approaching nervously. This comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s proposal that pharma companies, in the U.S., disclose list prices in DTC ads, which was followed by voluntary guidelines established by the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which go into effect next week. According to these latter rules, drug companies’ TV commercials should feature a website where consumers can view list prices and other cost-related info. At this time, these relatively loose, disparate guidelines allow for varied takes—as demonstrated by J&J’s and Lilly’s widely divergent broadcasts.

In ads for its diabetes treatment Trulicity, Lilly included a website and phone number through which patients could obtain pricing info. This approach follows the PhRMA guidelines. Johnson & Johnson, in an ad for its anticoagulant, Xarelto, printed the drug’s list price—$450 to $540 per month—followed by typical out-of-pocket costs. This is in line with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Humans Services’ guidelines, which are still under consideration.

The disclosure of list prices alongside out-of-pocket costs represents a new medium through which to keep patients informed, as Center for Medicine in the Public Interest President Peter Pitts told MM&M. “It is becoming an opportunity to educate patients,” he said. “Not only to what the list price means versus their co-pay, which is most important to patients, but also to continue to educate them on patient assistance programs.”

Lina Shields, Lilly’s Chief Media Officer, explained that “The reason we decided to go first is because, fundamentally, we believe this is important information for consumers to have.” That said, the relevant information is not always straightforward, and the pharma giant is working to perform new research and open new channels of communication in order to share cost info more and more helpfully with regard to its other brands. “We thought this an important conversation to have, but it’s not going to be an easy one because it’s a complex multi-faceted issue to explain to consumers.”

Why This Matters

Following more and more consumers being upset by steeply rising drug prices, brands are finding it imperative to engage shifting attitudes. Scott White, J&J’s North American head of pharmaceuticals, told the Wall Street Journal that, after interviewing over 2,000 consumers, they saw that it was high time to highlight pricing info. “People want to know what they can expect to pay at the pharmacy counter,” he said.  

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.