Senators from both parties are pushing for a vote on a bill that would require direct-to-consumer drug ads to include the treatment’s list price.
The bill, introduced in May by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and dubbed the Drug-price Transparency in Communications (DTC) Act, would amend the Social Security Act to require that ads include “truthful and non-misleading pricing information.”
Last week, Durbin and Grassley tried to get the DTC Act passed through unanimous consent, but objections from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) derailed their plan, according to reports.
Toomey does not object to a traditional roll call vote, but does to unanimous consent, which is meant to move the bill through the Senate more quickly, noted The Hill. He also argued that the list price could be misleading to patients and may cause some not to seek needed care.
The bill would circumvent a similar Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that was finalized in May. That rule is tied up in courts after a judge overturned it, saying one day before it was to go into effect that HHS overstepped its authority. The department appealed the ruling.
Judge Amit Mehta said that if the administration wants to enact rules to require list prices in TV ads, it should go through Congress, not federal health agencies.
“Congress knows how to prescribe the content of drug advertising when it chooses to do so,” the judge wrote in July. “Congress has directly addressed the subject of television drug advertising and pre-review of such advertisements. Yet, for decades, Congress has not addressed the disclosure of drug prices.”
The DTC Act would do just that: allow Congress to change drug advertising rules, in theory circumventing the judge’s qualms with the list price disclosure rule through HHS.
With a federal budget fight looming and public impeachment hearings set to begin, Durbin and Grassley were clearly hoping to squeeze the DTC bill through the federal legislature ahead of both.