Regunberg introduces bill to lower high cost of prescription drugs
With new access to information about manufacturers’ costs, the state could identify and intervene on significantly high drug prices.
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Aaron Regunberg has introduced legislation to create greater transparency in the prescription drug industry and to protect consumers from unreasonable prices for certain high value drugs.
“Everywhere I go across our state, I hear a similar concern — the monstrous cost of prescription drugs,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “From my next-door neighbors in Providence, to families in South County, to elders in the East Bay, Rhode Islanders are forced to make upsetting and unacceptable choices between their prescriptions on the one hand and their groceries, housing and basic needs on the other — all while pharmaceutical corporations and their CEOs see profits soar. That’s why the first new piece of legislation I introduced this year is a bill requiring cost transparency and limiting the maximum allowable prices that manufacturers may charge for certain high-cost drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has incredible influence and power. We need policies designed for all of us who can’t afford corporate lobbyists.”
The bill (2018-H 7042), which Representative Regunberg introduced Jan. 3, would establish a board of pharmacy to examine how prescription drug manufacturers set the price for certain prescriptions, and give it the authority to set a maximum allowable price to protect the Rhode Island consumers.
The board of pharmacy would work with the Department of Health to create an annual list of critical prescription drugs for which there is a significant public interest in understanding the development of pricing.
Manufacturers of these listed drugs would share information with the board including the cost of research, production, and marketing for those drugs. If the board determines that the price of a drug is significantly high given the manufacturers’ costs, it would have the authority to protect consumers by setting a maximum allowable price that manufactures can charge for it.
The process would be a way to prevent price-gouging in an industry upon which many patients’ lives depend, said Representative Regunberg.
The soaring price of EpiPen, the life-saving injectable device that can stop anaphylaxis, drew attention in recent years after the price of a two-pack rose from $103.50 in 2009 to more than $608.61 in 2016. (EpiPen manufacturer Mylan introduced a generic that costs $300 as a result of the controversy.) The year before, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired rights to Daraprim, a drug used to treat the parasite-borne disease toxoplasmosis, and raised its price by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 per pill to $750. Sovaldi, a highly effective drug for hepatitis C — is $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for the 12-week course of treatment.
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903