Lawmakers hear testimony on prescription drug cost transparency bill

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Legislators in the House Human Services Committee considered a bill on Wednesday aiming for greater transparency of prescription drug costs.

“I think if you ask the average consumer, they have no idea what goes into the cost of their prescription drug when they pick it up at the counter,” AARP State Director Josh Askvig said.

Specifically, House Bill 1032 would mandate drug manufacturers, pharmacy benefits managers and health insurers to report information to the State Board of Pharmacy. It also includes the creation of a website to show that information and has penalties up to $10,000 for manufacturers that violate the law.

“The attempt in this bill is to put pressure on companies not to raise prices, the question is will it do that or just add another regulatory framework?” asked Representative Robin Weisz, who chairs the committee.

Askvig says the bill is an important step to combating skyrocketing drug costs, which hits older Americans particularly hard.

“Transparency bills like this one today are an important building block in understanding what’s happening in the process of when it leaves the manufacturer and gets to the counter,” Askvig said.

Opponents of the bill say the disclosures could drive down competition, plus — simply knowing the cost won’t fix the problem of high prices.

“By having PBMs compete with pharmacies to basically be reporting proprietary information to their competitors undercuts competition,” Prime Therapeutics Lobbyist Alex Sommer said.

Rep. Weisz says he sees the pros and cons of the bill.

“While I think transparency is good and there may be some ways we can increase that ability, I’m a little concerned that people are thinking it’s a silver bullet and somehow it’s going to lower the drug prices and I really don’t see that as happening,” Weisz said.

The meeting was simply a hearing and there was no further action on the bill.

In AARP’s 2020 survey of North Dakota adults, in the past two years, about 25 percent reported not filling a prescription that was provided by their doctor, and 44 percent of those adults said that was because of cost.

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