Robert Pear

First published May 19th, 2018

WASHINGTON — If President Trump has his way, television viewers who see commercials for the drug Keytruda will learn not only that it can help lung cancer patients, but also that it carries a price tag of $13,500 a month, or $162,000 a year.

Viewers who see advertisements for Neulasta, a drug that reduces the risk of infections after chemotherapy, would learn that the list price for each injection is $6,200. And magazine readers would see a new bit of information in ads for Humira, the world’s best-selling drug, prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases: its list price, which has been widely reported as approximately $50,000 a year.

The disclosure of such data is perhaps the most eye-catching goal of Mr. Trump’s plan to lower drug prices. The president is determined to bring “price transparency” to the market in an effort to stimulate competition and overturn the current convoluted, opaque system in which everyone but the consumer benefits from higher prices, said Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services.

The idea seemed like an idle threat at first. The White House floated it as one of 50 options when Mr. Trump, in a Rose Garden speech on May 11, vowed to “bring soaring drug prices back down to earth.”

Three days later, however, Mr. Azar said the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were examining not whether but “how to require drug companies to post their list prices in direct-to-consumer advertising.” He hammered the theme again on Wednesday, saying that “when patients hear about a wonderful new drug, they should know whether it costs $100 or $50,000.”

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