Johnson & Johnson to air first commercial for prescription drug that also discloses its cost

Johnson & Johnson plans to start airing a television commercial for Xarelto (rivaroxaban) that will also briefly show the anticoagulant's monthly list price of $448, making it the first television advertisement in the US that discloses the cost of a prescription drug, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Scott White, head of Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceuticals business in North America, said the ad will also include a link to a website that has additional information about the price of Xarelto, such as estimated out-of-pocket cost ranges for patients with different types of insurance.

The commercial, which is set to begin airing nationally on March 29, will state that most patients have monthly payments of $0 to $47, based on their insurance coverage and eligibility for financial assistance programmes. According to Johnson & Johnson, about three-fourths of patients fall within this range.

The company announced in February that it planned to roll out television ads for Xarelto disclosing the list and expected out-of-pocket cost by the end of this month. "People want to know what they can expect to pay at the pharmacy counter," White commented. He added that later this year Johnson & Johnson will also begin including pricing information for other prescription products it advertises on television, which currently include Stelara (ustekinumab), a treatment for Crohn's disease, plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, as well as plaque psoriasis drug Tremfya (guselkumab).

The announcement follows a proposal last October by the US Health and Human Services department that would require companies to reveal the list prices of certain drugs in direct-to-consumer advertising. The proposed measure has been criticised by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which argues the rule could mislead consumers into thinking they will have to pay the full list price of a drug, rather than a copay or coinsurance if they are covered.

The news also comes after executives from seven drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson, testified before the US Senate Finance Committee last month in a hearing focused on drug pricing. The US House of Representatives' Oversight Committee separately launched a probe into drug pricing in January.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers have introduced legislation proposing several initiatives aimed at reducing drug costs, including a measure that would link US prescription prices to the median price paid in five countries. The proposal aligned with plans unveiled by the Trump administration last year that seek to tie the prices of certain drugs paid by Medicare to an "international pricing index."

Xarelto, which was developed in collaboration with Bayer, has been approved in the US for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis in patients undergoing knee or hip replacement, and for reducing the risk of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. Johnson & Johnson reported that sales of the drug fell more than 14 percent year-over-year to $608 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.

For related analysis on drug pricing, see ViewPoints: Pharma gets what it needs from Senate hearing.

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