Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

In the aftermath of the 2018 midterm election, one domestic policy issue shone through as a common ground for most Americans: healthcare costs. In particular, the dramatic rise in prices for prescription medication seems to be a pervasive worry among voters. To address the issue, elected officials in Washington, DC—in a bipartisan fashion not often seen—have consulted and impaneled congressional hearings to understand the economic impact medication costs.

In February 2019, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate called executives from pharmaceutical companies before their respective committees to answer direct questions about the process. Echoing this concern, the Trump administration, through Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, made a public statement on a popular aspect of the drug pricing issue: transparency in advertising. Although still controversial in some circles, most Americans embrace the idea of including drug prices in advertisements, and listing prices could shed light on direct costs to patients.

During his May 8, 2019, speech, Azar reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to addressing drug pricing issues, which the administration has been keen to tackle since 2018.

“Putting prices in TV ads may be the most significant single step any administration has ever taken toward this very clear commitment: patients have a right to know the price of the health care they receive, before they receive it,” Azar said. “If there’s one thing I want you to remember about the action we took today, it’s that requiring drug companies to level with American patients about their prices is about working toward a system where the patient—not the insurer, not the drug company, but the patient—is the one in control of your health care.”

Azar noted that transparency is a first step, and he praised many of the pharmaceutical companies that have already stepped forward to embrace the process. The drug pricing conversation is far from over and will continue to drive domestic policy for the foreseeable future.