May 8 (UPI) -- Heath and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday a new rule to require pharmaceutical companies to reveal the prices of drugs they advertise in television ads.
The new rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will force companies to disclose the prices of prescription drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid that cost $35 or more for a month's supply.
Addressing high prescription drug prices has been one issue that the Trump administration and Democrats have agreed on over the past two years, with Congress calling big pharma executives and pharmacy heads to testify.
HHS proposed the rule in October, one of several moves President Donald Trump laid out in a May 11, 2018, speech in the White House Rose Garden on lowering drug prices and helping consumers get more information on costs. The plans also included eliminating "gag rules" preventing pharmacists from advising patients on how to save money and methods for driving further competition in the industry in the hope of driving down drug costs.
"Requiring the inclusion of drugs' list prices in TV ads is the single most significant step any administration has taken toward a simple commitment: American patients deserve to know the prices of the healthcare they receive," Azar said in a statement Wednesday.
"Patients who are struggling with high drug costs are in that position because of the high list prices that drug companies set," he continued.
The companies are being given a 60-day notice to start complying.
A study published Jan. 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine found that making drug companies disclose drug costs in TV ads alone is unlikely to help lower prices.
Azar told ABC News that drug companies spent around $4 billion in TV advertising last year, urging customers to "ask your doctor" about certain drugs without informing them that the prescription medicine may cost them "$50 or $5,000."
Pharmaceutical companies have complained that advertising the price could be misleading because it may not reflect what customers would actually pay.
They backed another Trump proposal that would require an estimated $29 billion in rebates given to pharmacy benefit managers to be passed to consumers. Another proposal suggests companies add "legible text" in a television ad pointing customers to where they can find more information online.
"We think there is a better way to provide patients with medicine cost information," Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said.