California drug pricing transparency bill heads to Gov. Brown

SACRAMENTO — The nation’s most comprehensive legislation aimed at shining a light on prescription drug prices now heads California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, after the state Senate on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 17 on a 31 to 8 vote.

It needed 21 votes to pass.

Authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina and co-authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, SB 17 aims to make drug prices for both public and private health plans more transparent.

It would do so by requiring pharmaceutical companies to notify health insurers and government health plans like Medi-Cal at least 60 days before scheduled prescription drug price hikes that would exceed 16 percent over a two-year period. It would also force drug companies to explain the reasons behind those increases.

Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign bills into law.

Hernandez recently said that public anger at rising drug prices has been growing for some time, and that “Californians expect their government to do something about it.”

But the bill has been strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which deployed legions of lobbyists and paid for full-page newspaper ads leading up to the Legislature’s final votes on the measure, partially out of fear that SB 17 could become a national model and the first major step toward price controls.

Priscilla VanderVeer, spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, has repeatedly said that SB 17 can’t deliver on its empty promises.

In a statement she issued after SB 17 passed the Assembly on Monday, she said: “It won’t help Californians access needed medicine or make their costs at the pharmacy counter any lower,” she said. “It won’t even paint a complete picture of prescription drug spending since it only calls for information on list prices rather than the final cost after discounts and rebates.”

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Source:: The Mercury News – Health

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