The Los Angeles Times: Californians will get more information on what’s driving prescription drug prices under law signed by governor

October 9, 2017
Melanie Mason

Gov. Jerry Brown approved a measure Monday to increase disclosure on prescription drug prices, the focal point of growing efforts to clamp down on climbing pharmaceutical costs.

Supporters call the law the nation’s most sweeping effort to make prescription drug pricing more transparent. The measure would require drugmakers to provide notice to health plans and other purchasers 60 days in advance of a planned price hike if the increase exceeds certain thresholds.

The measure, SB 17 by state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa), will also require health plans to submit an annual report to the state that details the most frequently prescribed drugs, those that are most expensive and those that have been subject to the greatest year-to-year price increase.

”The essence of this bill is pretty simple,” Brown said at a Capitol signing ceremony. “Californians have a right to know why their medical costs are out of control, especially when pharmaceutical profits are soaring.”

The disclosure, backers say, would help shed light on how prescription drugs are contributing to overall healthcare costs.

“SB 17 speaks to the needs of all Californians who have felt the strain of nonstop prescription drug price increases,” Charles Bacchi, president and chief executive of the California Assn. of Health Plans, said in a statement. “Pharmaceutical prices have long played an outsized role in driving up the cost of health coverage across the board. SB 17 gives us the tools to address the issue by helping us prepare for price hikes and discouraging needless cost increases.”




It also garnered support from some Republican lawmakers, who have typically been aligned with drug makers.

“Shouldn’t we do something to help make this system operate better so we can get better cost savings for our consumers? That’s a conservative principle,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City).

Now, Hernandez said, he hoped the law would inspire similar action on a national level.

“I want to challenge our federal elected do the same thing at the national level,” he said, “so that we can make sure that every single person in this country not only has access to healthcare but they can afford their healthcare premium dollars.”

In his signing remarks, Brown said the angst over rising drug costs — and manufacturers’ substantial profits — was symptomatic of the broader gap between the haves and have-nots.

“The social and political fabric is being ripped apart,” Brown said. “The inequities are growing. The rich are getting richer, the powerful are getting more powerful and a growing number of people are getting more desperate, more alienated.”

He directed a message to the pharmaceutical industry that opposed the bill: “You’ve got to join with us. You’re part of America. And if we all don’t pull together, we’re going to pull apart.”

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