Drug pricing crisis reflected in number of bills – Sentinel & Enterprise











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By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON — State lawmakers across the country have filed more than 150 bills so far this year to address the costs of prescription drugs, on the heels of passage of 45 new laws last year.

Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said Thursday that, with uncertainty over how the federal government might tackle the topic and pressure on state budgets from costs in both Medicaid programs and for employee health care, drug pricing has become a serious issue for states.

“The drug pricing crisis is really one of unpredictability,” Riley said during a Massachusetts Association of Health Plans policy forum at the University of Massachusetts Club. “It’s not just that the prices are high, it’s that they are increased in unpredictable ways, and when you’re a state with a balanced budget requirement, you really are constrained about how to pay for those increased and unpredictable prices.”

Riley said state legislatures in 2018 introduced 171 bills dealing with prescription drug costs, and 28 states passed 45 new laws. Of the new laws, 33 dealt with pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), and seven with price transparency. A total of 99 PBM bills and 26 transparency bills were filed.

Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine were among the states that passed drug price transparency laws last session, and Vermont also passed a law addressing importation of prescription drugs, according to Riley’s presentation.

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At this point in 2019, 158 drug cost bills have been filed in 36 states, including 72 PBM bills, 27 transparency bills and 22 bills on importation, Riley said.

Riley said bills addressing PBMs are popular “in part, perhaps, because the industry supports them generally.”

“It doesn’t have the same political challenge that other bills do,” she said.

The state Health Policy Commission’s annual cost trends report, released earlier this month, called for policymakers, the medical field and insurers to take action around prescription drug spending.

According to the HPC, more than 50 bills have been filed this session in Massachusetts to address pharmaceutical spending growth.

The report recommends authorizing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to establish a process allowing “rigorous review” of high-cost drugs and increasing MassHealth’s ability to negotiate directly with manufacturers for additional supplemental rebates.

While overall health care spending in Massachusetts grew 1.6 percent in 2017, prescription drug spending increased 4.1 percent.

Riley said she believes states are spurred to act on drug pricing because of concerns about future costs as well as current spending.

“It’s one thing to look at the prices today of drugs and the black box of how those prices are set,” she said. “It’s another to think about what the future holds. What’s going to happen with specialty drugs, the new biologics, immunotherapy, the great new advances? If we can’t afford what we have now, where do we go in the future?”



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