California is close to passing legislation to tackle the rising cost of prescription drugs

  • California’s state legislature is close to passing two separate bills related to the price of prescription drugs.
  • The bills, which confront rising prices and coupons and discounting strategies used by drug companies, have each passed one chamber.
  • If the bills pass and become law, California would join a growing number of states that are tackling the rising cost of prescription drugs.

California could be the next state to pass legislation that curbs the practices of the pharmaceutical industry.

The state’s one key vote away from passing two separate bills that hope to increase transparency around the way drug prices are set and lower costs for patients.

California’s taken a stab at confronting the rising cost of prescription drugs before. In the November 2016 election, a proposition that would have capped California state prescription drug prices at the price the Department of Veterans Affairs pays for them was defeated, with 54% of residents voting against it.

But the state’s attempts to curb drug pricing hasn’t slowed down. In 2017 alone, members of the state’s legislature have introduced at least four bills, two of which are still making their way through the legislative process.

The farthest along is SB-17, a bill that’s gotten under biotech executives’ skin. The bill would require companies to disclose more information that the executives argue could undercut competition, including a 60-day notice of increases to a drug’s price if it costs more than $US40. It originally passed the Senate in May, but with its amendments it needs to pass the Senate again before going to the governor.

SB-17 has faced a lot of opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.

“It won’t help Californians access needed medicine or make their costs at the pharmacy counter any lower,” Priscilla VanderVeer, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry’s lobbying group, told The Mercury News. “It won’t even paint a complete picture of prescription drug spending since it only calls for information on list prices rather than the final cost after discounts and rebates.”

The other bill is AB-265. The bill would prohibit drug companies from offering coupons and other discounts to brand name drugs if there’s a cheaper generic alternative available at the pharmacy. AB-265 passed the senate in a 23-15 vote on Tuesday and still needs to pass the assembly before it can go to the governor.

In the past few months, a handful of states have introduced new drug transparency laws. Nevada, which passed its bill focused on the price of diabetes medications in June, has since faced a lawsuit from industry lobbying groups. The lawsuit argues that the law would infringe on trade secret protections and potentially violate patient rights.

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