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WA Prescription Affordability Board Would Limit Drug-Cost Increases


Friday, January 28, 2022   

Washington state lawmakers are considering a measure to limit the growing cost of prescription drugs.

Senate Bill 5532 would establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which would convene a panel of experts to cap the prices of medications. Four states, including Colorado and Maryland, already have boards.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, who introduced the legislation, said when people cannot afford medication, they skip doses and or even try to get by without their prescriptions.

"We have data to show that people's health goes down," Keiser reported. "There's more death, there's more suffering, when prices go up, and prices have been going up relentlessly and, really, outrageously."

The legislation is scheduled for an executive session in the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care today.

Reid Porter, spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, countered the bill will hurt pharmaceutical innovation. The organization is instead supporting Senate Bill 5888, which Porter said is a "patient-centered solution," utilizing rebates to bring down drug costs.

John Barnett is 91 years old and lives in Kirkland. A year ago, he went to the hospital for an irregular heartbeat, where they prescribed a drug he will need to take twice a day for the rest of his life. But he was shocked to find out the medication costs $6,000 a year.

"I would rather spend that $6,000 a year on something that's enjoyable or beneficial, something like that," Barnett acknowledged. "But if I want to stay alive and see my grandkids grow up, I guess I've got to continue to take that."

Seth Greiner, senior manager of advocacy in Washington and Oregon for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, noted MS is a chronic disease, which usually requires lifelong therapies.

He noted five of the most common disease-modifying therapies for MS are priced at more than $100,000 a year. Greiner added 40% of respondents to a 2019 survey they conducted said they had altered their use of treatments due to cost.

"We believe that both innovation and affordable access are critical to ensuring that people receive the medications and treatments they need, but these medications can only be accessed if people can afford them."

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