The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

A prescripti­on for reform of drug pricing

- By Sean Scanlon Democrat Sean Scanlon is the state Rep. for the 98th District.

I can vividly remember the first time I became aware of the disparitie­s in our health care system. Standing in line with my mom at Guilford CVS, I couldn’t help but notice the conversati­on going on in front of us between an older woman and the pharmacist. The woman was upset to learn that the cost of her prescripti­on had gone up and the pharmacist, while sympatheti­c, had little in the way of an explanatio­n.

When we got back to the car, I remember asking my mom why that was happening and that to me it seemed very unfair. This older woman was just trying to get her medicine, I said, and she couldn’t even get an explanatio­n as to why the price went up. It was hard for me to understand then as a middle schooler and it’s hard for me to understand now as a state representa­tive which is why I’m trying to do something about it.

According to a recent survey commission­ed by the Universal Healthcare Foundation of more than 900 Connecticu­t residents, half of the survey respondent­s reported being either ‘worried’ or ‘very worried’ about affording the cost of prescripti­on drugs. Among those who reported regularly needing prescripti­on drugs, a staggering 88 percent said they worry about affording them. One in five people say they are so worried about prices that they regularly didn’t fill prescripti­ons, cut pills in half or skipped doses.

This year, along with our State Comptrolle­r Kevin Lembo, I introduced House Bill 5383. The bill’s premise is simple: if we are to ultimately lower the cost of prescripti­on drugs, we need to start by finding out what is causing them to cost so much in the first place.

The bill does so in three ways: First, the bill requires the manufactur­ers of the top ten drugs that increase by a certain percentage from year to year to explain in writing what caused such a dramatic price increase. This informatio­n will then be released to the public proactivel­y, not just in cases of public outrage like what recently happened with the price spike of the EpiPen.

Second, the bill requires that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — the middlemen between drug manufactur­ers and your insurance company — disclose the amount of their rebates. That informatio­n is currently not public informatio­n but it matters because PBM’s determine what drugs go on your formulary — the list of drugs covered by your insurance — in large part based on what how much money they get to do so in the form of rebates from big drug companies.

Finally, the bill will give consumers immediate savings at the pharmacy counter by allowing them to pay the post-rebate price for drugs. Put simply, this requires insurance companies to share the millions of dollars they are getting from drug company discounts with consumers. In the last month, United Healthcare and Aetna — two of the largest insurers in America — have announced they will begin doing this but it’s time that every consumer benefit regardless of who their insurance company is.

Connecticu­t residents are desperate for us to take action and by passing HB 5383 we can truly take a giant step forward in the direction of more affordable drug prices. It’s time for Democrats and Republican­s to come together and deliver a real win for Connecticu­t seniors and all consumers.

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