Nosse Plans Drug Price Transparency Bill for Oregon in 2018

President Trump has decried PhRMA, accusing the drug companies of “getting away with murder,” but so far Congress has taken only baby steps to the problem of surging drug costs, passing a provision from Rep. Kurt Schrader to ease the approval of generic competition to so-called “orphan drugs.”

Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, plans to introduce legislation that will require pharmaceutical companies to provide state regulators with detailed explanations of price hikes and their products’ effects on healthcare costs, mirroring a California state law enacted earlier this month.

That  law requires drug manufacturers to give 60 days’ notice if they wish to raise the price of a drug more than 16 percent in two years. It also requires drug companies and health insurance plans to file annual reports on prescription drugs’ effects on health insurance premiums.

“I’m going to introduce that bill for Oregon in 2018,” Nosse said. “They must explain these price hikes for California’s insurance division, they can do the same for our DCBS.”

Nosse sponsored legislation earlier this year that would have put Oregon at the forefront of reining in out-of-control pharmaceutical costs by pegging drug prices to prices negotiated in other industrialized countries, often several times less than what’s paid in the United States.

The law passed the House Health Committee on a party-line vote, but went no further, despite the backing of the state health insurance industry, leading unions and healthcare advocates such as the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group and AARP.

California’s new prescription drug transparency law is similar to the transparency provisions in the earlier Nosse bill, House Bill 2387. Nosse said in June that he had run out of time to get a law passed, as he had tried for much more aggressive legislation.

Another provision, ending the price-gouging of older, generic “orphan drugs” was passed in Maryland, allowing that state’s attorney general to challenge price hikes that “shock the conscience” such as the notorious price hike of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill after Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the antimalarial drug that’s used to treat toxoplasmosis.

The price-gouging law had bipartisan support in the Maryland General Assembly, but generic drug manufacturers still challenged the law in court, losing their bid to block the new law last month.

President Donald Trump renewed his negative opinion of the prescription drug industry this week, telling reporters Monday, “The drug industry is getting away with murder,” but his fellow Republicans in Congress have not seriously challenged the industry’s profiteering.

However, in August, the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 passed, on a near-unanimous vote, and included a provision from Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., which would ease the approval process for generic versions of existing drugs and give generic manufacturers more incentives to enter the market when a drug is only produced by one manufacturer.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent democratic socialist from Vermont, cast the sole vote against the FDA budget bill after he failed to get an amendment allowing people to legally import drugs from Canada -- a policy with bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.

Reach Chris Gray at chris@thelundreport.org.

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