The Overarching Theme of 2019: Transparency

August 5, 2019

Judge Amit Mehta from the United States District Court of the District of Columbia struck down a rule requiring drug pricing in television ads.

A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a rule that would have made drug manufacturing companies provide pricing for a 30-day supply of their medications on every television commercial they aired. The price of the drug would have had to be on the screen (in a legible font) for a time long enough for someone to read.

Think about what this means.

How many commercials advertise the benefits of certain medicines on TV and then say: “Ask your doctor if X is right for you”? But then there is no follow up on how much this treatment could actually cost.

To give you an idea: the average monthly wholesale cost of the top 10 televised medications is over $8,000/month. Harvoni, a medication used to treat Hepatitis C, is about $30,000/month.

Nevertheless, a couple of days before going into effect, the District Court vacated this proposed rule on drug pricing transparency in consumer advertising.

According to the decision, the Judge defended his ruling stating that Congress did not give HHS the power to issue such a rule.

Skirting around the main concern of transparency, the decision stated, “[the court does not] take any view on the wisdom of requiring drug companies to disclose prices. That policy very well could be an effective tool in halting the rising cost of prescription drugs. But no matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized.”

While it is arguable whether HHS has the authority to require drug companies to post prices in their direct-to-consumer advertisements, that is not the reason why this decision struck a nerve in the American public. The lack of transparency from people in positions of power was the real culprit.

Policymakers are attacking this issue of transparency from all angles – whether it be through the exposure of Trump’s tax returns and pharmaceutical pricing on a national scale – or the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine and Hellenic College/Holy Cross on a community scale.

While there is work to be done on the national scale, it is comforting to see that the leader of our church, Archbishop Elpidophoros, has addressed the issue of transparency head on – stating that “our future is bright as long as we open the curtains so that the sun of transparency can shine on us.”

He understands that a lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.

He understands that transparency is the currency of trust.

Now we just have to convince the others.


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