New year, new bill, new momentum for prescription drug price transparency…

During the campaign, President Trump vowed he would “bring down drug prices” through negotiation and other means, and earlier this year repeated that promise, saying the drug companies were “getting away with murder.” Yet when the President actually met with PHRMA CEOs just a month and a half ago, he seemed to capitulate to the drug companies’ every demand, with no concrete commitments for consumers. His new FDA head is one of PHRMA’s consultants and board members. The pending health bill in Congress does nothing to lower prescription drug prices, and in fact increases cost-sharing for consumers—all while giving a massive tax break to the pharmaceutical industry. With the President and Congress focused on tax and regulatory giveaways to Big Pharma rather than on any relief for consumers, it is more urgent than ever for California to take a lead on pushing back on prescription drug prices.

Today, Senator Ed Hernandez held a press conference to spotlight a new version to SB17(Hernandez), transparency legislation that will provide public and private purchasers with the information needed to better respond to prescription drug price hikes and negotiate better deals for patients. Californians deserve to know just why their prescription drug prices are soaring, with prices often spiking overnight, with no warning or explanation. These price increases are forcing patients to skip necessary medications, and makes the health care system prohibitively expensive for all of us.

Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, is proud to be a co-sponsor of SB17(Hernandez). (Our fact sheet on SB17 explains the details.) Our effort last year, while it did not cross the finish line, went much farther than most Capitol observers predicted, and we feel new urgency and momentum for this reform this year.  The drug companies’ over-the-top opposition last year raises the question for many, “What is PHRMA hiding?”

The public anger over skyrocketing prescription drug prices is not going away—there’s a reason President Trump speaks, if not acts, on the issue. With EpiPen and every other high price prescription price hike, we feel increased momentum for action on prescription drug prices, and can pass meaningful reform this year, given the new members and margins in the California Legislature. The very close vote on Prop 61 this past fall, despite Big Pharma having to spend over $120 million to ultimately defeat it–breaking their record against our Prop 79 a decade ago–also shows the public is ready for action. With no relief from the federal level expected, the time for California to lead on transparency and prescription drug price reform is now.