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With less than a month left to go in the 2017 legislative session, state lawmakers have so far failed to pass the Oregon Affordable Drug Prices Act (HB 2387) to prevent drug company price gouging, increase transparency and lower prices. This important bill passed the House Health Care Committee in April but has been stalled thanks to the efforts of the powerful pharmaceutical industry, whose lobbyists have been working to stop the bill. Meanwhile, prices for medications increase month after month. It was recently announced that Pfizer raised the cost of many of its drugs for the second time this year for an average 20 percent increase.
“It’s clear why the pharmaceutical lobby wants to stop the Oregon Affordable Drug Prices Act. It will require them to finally reveal how much they spend on marketing and advertising versus research and development. It will require them to finally justify double and triple digit annual price increases. It will require them to finally put patients first,” says Jesse O’Brien, OSPIRG.
OSPIRG is part of one of the most unusual coalitions in Oregon, which has brought together consumer groups, patients, pharmacists, nurses, labor unions, insurance carriers, and health care activists to fight together to lower prescription drug prices.
HB 2387 would:
- Lower prescription drug costs. Co-pays would be capped at between $100 and $250 for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who have their health care in small group plans or purchase their plans on the individual market.
- Increase transparency: If manufacturers increase drug prices more than 10% in a year or introduces a new drug at more than $12,000 price per year, they must report their research and development costs compared to their advertising costs for that drug, their direct-to-consumer marketing costs, their expected profit, and show how the price compares to other industrialized countries. Information would be available online so Oregonians can see how drug pricing really works.
- Reduce Price Gouging: If the Department Consumer and Business Services determines that the drug price increase wasn’t justified, the manufacturer must pay a rebate into a Premium Protection Fund, which prevents insurers from gaining a windfall.
Pharmacist Sean Murray of Enterprise supports HB 2387 because he sees first-hand the effect on his patients. Drug prices can increase staggering amounts with no advance notice, leaving patients struggling to afford their medication.
“EpiPen got headlines and Congressional investigations after the price increased 450 percent, but it’s insulin that’s causing a great deal of despair in rural Oregon and across the state. One in eight Oregonians has insulin and the price has tripled in the past 10 years even though it’s been on the market for decades,” Murray says. “I have a patient whose out of pocket costs for her insulin are $22,000 a year. Something has to be done now to require drug companies to be more transparent and justify these unreasonable price increases.”
Research shows that 80% of Oregonians say drug prices are too high. Oregonians for Affordable Drug Prices Now is urging everyone to contact their lawmakers today and call for action to lower prescription drug prices.
“The clock is ticking,” says O’Brien. “Oregonians in every part of the state are feeling the effects of out-of-control drug increases. It’s time for lawmakers to stand up to the drug lobby and stand up for regular Oregonians.”
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