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Controlling Cost Of Prescription Drugs in W.Va.

We all know that over the years the prices we pay for prescription drugs have increased. Whether it be for generic or name brand prescriptions, the one thing we’re certain of is that they’ve all become more expensive. The one thing we don’t know, however, is why this happens. This session I’ve helped introduce legislation to help answer that question.

I’m proud to have partnered with the AARP this session to help introduce bipartisan legislation that is aimed at helping West Virginians learn just why the costs of their prescriptions have increased — and give them information to discuss other potentially lower-cost options with their doctor.

Senate Bill 689 would bring transparency to pharmaceutical prices and require the drug manufacturers who do business in this state to submit a report each year to our State Auditor. Among other things, these reports will include the names of each drug sold here, its introductory price, any price changes to that drug, and (most importantly) a statement regarding the factors that have caused any increases in that drug’s cost.

The State Auditor will then publish those reports on the state’s pharmaceutical transparency website that the Auditor’s office will create, which will then allow for the public to search for the prescriptions they take.

We’ve all seen stories and had firsthand experiences dealing with cost increases for prescription drugs. Examples of these increases, however, are not limited to newer, cutting-edge treatments, but also include drugs that have been around for decades and haven’t changed much since their introduction. One recent study showed that a large number of older drugs that have been on that market for years saw a price increase of 9% each year in the span of about a decade.

Do you need insulin to help treat your Type 1 diabetes? That drug has tripled in cost over the past decade. Are you taking Prozac for anxiety? California’s prescription transparency law found that the price for this prescription jumped 667% in 2019 alone. And in West Virginia we’re all too familiar with the nearly 400% price increase of EpiPens in the span of about 10 years — despite the fact that the drug has been around since the 1970s.

This year there have been several bills introduced to cap costs for the above-mentioned insulin or EpiPens. And while I feel these would help those dealing with the large increases to their costs, legislation like this doesn’t get to the real root of the problem, which is finding out why these increases have happened. My reason for sponsoring this legislation is because it requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose information regarding their pricing practices. By doing so, it will hold them more accountable for their prices, while at the same time giving those who have to pay for a prescription each month the ability to see why what they’re paying has gone up. I firmly believe that this added scrutiny will make pharmaceutical companies rethink what has seemingly been their standard practice of setting high launch prices and then increasing them year after year.

Currently there are no federal laws regulating the problem of ever-increasing prescription drug costs. Because of that, it is up to the states to do something about it on behalf of their citizens. As one official from the West Virginia Chapter of the AARP stated in a press event regarding this issue, “the time for policymakers to act is now.” I couldn’t agree more — and am proud to partner with them as we take on an issue that affects so many of our State’s people.

Sen. Weld, R-Brooke, represents the 1st Senatorial District and serves as the Senate Majority Whip as well as the Chair of the Military Committee and Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee. He is also an attorney with the firm of Spilman, Thomas & Battle.

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