The bill Pharma wants to bottle up
Few pocketbook issues are as widespread or as hard to fathom as the soaring cost of prescription drugs. In the past five years, prices for the nation’s 10 top selling medications – for high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, depression and other common conditions – have shot up 50 percent, 100 percent and even higher. In the last year alone, spending on prescription medication is up 12 percent, to a national total of some $425 billion.
Why? Are we sicker? Are drug ingredients scarcer? Are we all just being ripped off?
SB 1010 would require drugmakers to give some justification and notice before they raise the price of big-ticket drugs in the market. It also would require insurers and health plans to identify the top drugs driving health care spending.
Unfortunately the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want this sunlight. At last count, some 33 drug companies, biotech firms and industry trade organizations had lobbyists roaming the Capitol hallways, battling West Covina Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez’s bill.
The reasons proffered are familiar: Any change in the status quo, even better data, will supposedly hurt innovation, or worsen costs, or jeopardize trade secrets or create paperwork or just not work as planned.
What’s really going on is that for the past couple of years, in the absence of federal legislation, those being soaked by rising drug costs have begun seeking state action. Bills have been introduced in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Colorado and elsewhere requiring varying degrees of transparency.
So far, only one state – Vermont – has managed to get a law past the Pharma lobby, and it’s weak. SB 1010 would be much harder to game if it passes. Let’s hope it does and becomes the national template the industry is so afraid of. Californians deserve an explanation if medication is going to cost this much.