The Fight Continues on Prescription Drug Costs, Despite the Demise of SB 1010

Last Thursday, SB 1010 (Hernandez) which would provide transparency in prescription drug prices, was substantially amended coming off of the Assembly Appropriations suspense file. As sponsors of the legislation along with the California Labor Federation, Health Access California conferred with supporters of the bill including key legislators, other consumer advocates, labor unions, business, and health purchasers, and have concluded that the amendments exempt as many as 99% of drug price hikes and therefore is no longer worth pursuing this year. Though this is a setback, we are committed to intensifying our efforts to win reforms that help consumers afford needed medications.  The bill, which was vigorously opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, would have provided 30-day advance notice of prescription drug price hikes for both public and private purchasers, as well as greater disclosure of prescription drug cost trends. Big Pharma had already successfully defeated a number of proposed sunshine laws across the country and California was the latest to face defeat under the avalanche of pharmaceutical company lobbying and spending.

The amended version of the bill wasn’t event half a loaf, but mere crumbs, exempting 99% of prescription drug price hikes from any notice, disclosure, or justification. Health Access and our allies plan to redouble our efforts to provide the real transparency and relief that California consumers deserve. We know that voters are with us and more people will join in the outcry as new high-priced drug or unjustified price spikes capture increased public attention. It’s unconscionable that Big Pharma charges Californians outrageous prices, and then turns around and uses that money to lobby and defeat legislation to block minimal transparency and justification for those prices. As a result, hardworking Californians are watching their health care costs climb ever higher, in part due to increasing drug costs. This bill would have given Californians the first real look at why drug prices keep soaring, and without it consumers continue to be kept in the dust as their health care costs soar.

Rising drug costs not only lead to increased premiums but also means that uninsured and underinsured patients cannot afford their medications, forcing them to skip doses, cut pills in half, and face the health and financial consequences of not getting the care they need. Public anger around high-priced medications will keep growing, and consumer advocates will keep pushing this issue through a variety of means. Big Pharma may have big money, but every voter knows someone personally concerned about the rising cost of prescription drugs. By bill or ballot measure or some other means, there has to be transparency and some relief on prescription drug prices. We will be back.

Read more:

Sacramento Bee:

Los Angeles Times:

San Jose Mercury News: Awsare: California drug pricing transparency is necessary legislation