Senate Republicans address soaring cost of prescription drugs with new transparency and accountability requirements

Consumers will have a much clearer understanding about the cost of prescription drugs and how pharmaceutical companies arrive at those prices thanks to a new bill from Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center). Senate File 1098 is designed force pharmaceutical companies to provide substantial, detailed information about how they arrive at drug prices.

Under current law, drug companies can – and often do – raise their prices at any time, for any reason. Sen. Rosen’s bill would require a manufacturer to provide substantial information if it wants to raise a drug price dramatically, introduce a new, high-cost drug, or purchase an expensive drug.

“It’s indefensible that you could head to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for a medication you depend on, only to find out that the price has doubled since your last refill,” said Sen. Rosen. “Patients should not be kept in the dark about why prescriptions costs as much as they do. Minnesotans deserve complete information, and the improvements in this bill will make sure they get it.”

The bill also allows for emergency prescription refills for insulin and other lifesaving drugs.

At a press conference earlier this year in support of the bill, a number of Minnesotans spoke about how better price transparency will improve their lives:

Nikki Foster, a Minnesota resident from Brooklyn Park, has struggled with exorbitant prescription medication prices while living with Multiple Sclerosis.

“Medications can only change lives if people can access them,” Ms. Foster said. “Unfortunately, because of the significant increases in the cost of medications to treat multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions, Minnesotans are struggling to find a way to afford for their medications, especially if they lose access to health insurance. Staying on an MS medication is crucial to my future and the future of my family.”

Claire Henn relies on Remicaid for her rheumatoid arthritis to help stop the progression and reduce inflammation. On a $25,000 yearly income, Ms. Henn was forced to go 2 years without her treatment after a prescription that once cost $60 jumped to $1,400.

“After finding assistance through a charity, I’m finally able to receive the treatment I need to reclaim my quality of life,” said Ms. Henn. “But I’m going to have to make some hard choices when the assistance runs out: which do I prioritize? My home or my quality of life? Nobody should ever have to make a decision like that.”

The bill has several elements:

  • Stronger reporting requirements for prescription drug price increases, new prescription drugs, and newly-acquired prescription drugs. The requirements include: information on prices and price increases, generic alternatives, costs incurred by the manufacturer for marketing and advertising, research and development, and more.
  • Reported information regarding prescription drug prices must be posted on the Human Services Department website in a simple, easy-to-understand format.
  • Civil penalties will be levied against pharmaceuticals that fail to comply with transparency requirements. This can include failing to submit information in a timely manner or providing incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Health plans who offer prescription drug benefits must provide information about the 25 most frequently prescribed drugs, the 25 most costly prescription drugs, the 25 prescription drugs that have caused the greatest increase in spending, and the impact of prescription drug costs on premium rates.
  • The Board of Pharmacy must post on their website how customers can find access to more affordable prescription drugs.

“This bill does not prevent price increases, but it does require that a manufacturer must provide a public accounting to support the high cost of the drug,” concluded Sen. Rosen.

The bill was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on March 26 and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it awaits a hearing.

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