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Drug Pricing Bill Faces Crucial Committee Vote

gregfriese / Flickr

gregfriese / Flickr

An ongoing drug pricing battle between Democratic Senator Ed Hernandez and the pharmaceutical industry comes to a head Friday in the California Legislature.

Hernandez’s new measure, SB17, aims to create greater transparency between drug manufacturers, health plans and consumers. He introduced a similar bill last year, but it was hijacked in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. This week, it goes to a vote in that same committee.

The new bill has support from the California Labor Federation and consumer group Health Access California. It’s opposed by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Hernandez says his measure, along with other drug pricing bills up for debate this season,will ultimately lead to lower prices for consumers.

“It brings attention to an industry that traditionally has never been questioned,” he says. “But if you think about the rising prescription drug costs… I think not only my bill, but what’s happening nationwide, there is a lot of attention to the pharmaceutical drug industry, because they are making huge profits at the expense of the customer and the taxpayers.”

Drug manufacturers say the bill is too narrowly focused on one slice of the problem. Priscilla VanderVeer is a spokesperson for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group representing biopharmaceutical research companies.

She says the bill only looks at one level of the supply chain - the manufacturers. It also tackles the original list prices for the drugs, versus what the consumer actually pays after insurance plans and pharmacy benefit managers negotiate a price.

It’s a very complex system, and I think this bill is trying to simplify it in a way that is not realistic,” she says.

Consumer uproar over drug pricing has been fueled by skyrocketing prices of the EpiPen, for allergies, and Sovaldi for Hepatitis. 

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