Gillibrand touts bill to cut medication costs

Published Jul 16, 2018 at 4:00pm

Federal legislation that is geared to drive down prescription drug prices and increase access to safe, affordable medications was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, during a visit to St. Luke’s Hospital in New Hartford.

The proposed legislation, called the Stop Price Gouging Act, would bring down the costs, provide access to affordable medications for New York seniors, and penalize drug companies that raise medication prices without justification, said Gillibrand’s office.

There currently is no mechanism to prevent a manufacturer from spiking the price of its drugs year after year, and pharmaceutical corporations are not required to report increases in the price of their drugs to the public, Gillbrand’s office said. In January 2017, median prices for prescription medications increased by an average of nearly nine percent, about four times the overall inflation rate, forcing many seniors living on a fixed income to consider going without their medication, her office added.

““No matter where I am in our state, one thing I keep hearing over and over again is that New York’s seniors are extremely worried about the high cost of prescription drugs,” said Gillibrand. “We must solve this crisis, and one of the most effective ways we can do that is by finally holding drug companies accountable with tough penalties when they spike the price of prescription drugs that New Yorkers need to treat their illnesses....”

Among measures in Gillibrand’s proposed legislation:

• Require pharmaceutical corporations to report increases in price of their products, plus justification for increases that exceed medical inflation, to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General.

• Impose a tax penalty on corporations that engage in excessive, unjustified price increases that are proportional to the size of the price spike.

• Instruct the Government Accountability Office to study how drug manufacturers establish initial launch prices, and suggest best practices for monitoring new drug pricing.

• Reinvest penalties collected from companies in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Mohawk Valley Health System President Scott H. Perra said the system “saw a 48 percent increase in drug expenses from 2013 to 2017.” Among impacts, he said, are “patients neglecting to take their medicines because of its high cost. This often leads to unnecessary Emergency Department visits or readmission into the hospital, both of which could be avoided if the medications were more affordable.”

Christopher Houle, clinical pharmacy coordinator for Mohawk Valley Health System, said “unsustainable increases in the cost of medications could eventually influence our ability to provide superior pharmaceutical care. Drug prices are rising much faster than inflation, and these changing prices continue to put downward pressure on our hospital pharmacy budget....”