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Pharma blocks state law requiring disclosure of drug prices to doctors

Written by Diane Archer

Kaiser Health News reports on Pharma’s full court press to block a state law requiring disclosure of drug prices to doctors. Unfortunately, Pharma’s targeted investments have extraordinary influence. Pharma kept Louisiana state policymakers from passing legislation that would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose to doctors the price of their drugs at the time they market their drugs to doctors.

The US should not allow drug companies to market their drugs to doctors without also providing doctors with objective information about the value of their drugs.. But, today, when they market to doctors, drug makers need not show doctors evidence that their drugs have greater clinical benefits and offer better value than other drugs on the market. Unless states require disclosure of this information, it will not happen. Pharma has no interest in helping doctors make objective decisions about the drugs they prescribe.

In Louisiana, Pharma hired one lobbyist for every two state legislators–at one point Pharma had enlisted 84 lobbyists–to make sure Louisiana’s drug-price disclosure requirement bill was not enacted.  Pharma also made political contributions to 80 legislators and other politicians. And, Pharma spent thousands of dollars on entertainment for Louisiana legislators, including taking them out to fancy dinners. On top of Pharma’s contributions, pharmaceutical companies made generous contributions to political candidates and political action committees at the state level to influence them.

With many drug prices at eye-popping levels, state legislatures across the country are entertaining legislation that aims to rein in drug costs. Even if states cannot control their prescription drug costs, their efforts to do so keeps attention on these costs and helps to raise awareness of the issues at the grassroots level.

Achieving fair prices for prescription drugs will not happen without a battle. Pharma appears willing to spend whatever it takes to combat any federal or state law that helps people better understand the prices paid for drugs in the US, let alone that brings down drug prices. Pharma spent $110 million in 2016 to defeat a California ballot measure that would have reduced the price of drugs for state agencies, easing a large burden on taxpayers. (In 2017, California enacted a law forcing pharmaceutical companies to justify price hikes in certain situations.)  It spent another $50 million to do same in Ohio.

Although reining in drug costs remains the public’s top policy priority, it will take extreme public pressure to move Congress to regulate drug prices across the board. Americans spend way more of our income than we should on drugs, through taxes, high health insurance premiums and copays, and lower wages.

If you want Congress to rein in drug prices, please sign this petition.

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