Close up of a wooden gavel and mallet

In light of a lack of changes in federal policy, several states are proposing new and tougher laws in an attempt to lower drug prices.

Lawmakers across the United States are pushing for bills that would hold drugmakers accountable for unjustified prescription drug hikes and would cap payments equal to that of much lower Canadian levels. 

Nowadays, people also do their own move towards justice as there are a few lawsuits being filed by plaintiffs to make drugmakers accountable not only for their price gouging tactics but also for some illegal marketing practices that they engage in. 

In the Risperdal lawsuits, for instance, plaintiffs claim that the manufacturer of the drug, pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, failed to warn the public about Risperdal’s side effects and has instead marketed the drug to children and the elderly despite knowing its harmful risks to these groups of people.

An Intensified Demand For Action

The bills, which were sponsored by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from different states, are a form of response to consumers’ demand for federal action on drug prices as there is still much uncertainty about solutions to be provided by the Congress.

According to a recent survey conducted by Politico and Harvard University, 87 percent of Americans demand federal action that would lower drug prices, making it the public’s second most-sought policy. 

The concern was driven by the toll of out-of-pocket costs among Medicaid beneficiaries, leading many patients to pay up to thousands of dollars each year. 

“States will keep a careful eye on Congress, but they can’t wait,” said Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), which has drafted two bills on cutting prices that some lawmakers are using.

Pink and yellow tablets in packaging

According to The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, in 2019, drugmakers raised the list prices for seven of the most widely used and expensive drugs even with no evidence of significant clinical improvements.

Democratic legislators from Maine, Hawaii, and Washington recently introduced bills which were based on one of NASHP’s models. Under this model, after obtaining the list of drugs from ICER, the states would then require the drugmakers to report total sales of their drugs in a particular state, and then compare it with the total sales form the previous year. 

The state would then analyze and assess the tax on the manufacturer. The revenue from the tax would then be allotted to fund programs that would help more patients afford their medications.

Similarly, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker from Massachusetts proposed a penalty on price hikes for more prescription drugs as part of his budget proposal, which he projects would bring in $70 million in its first year of implementation. 

According to Riley, many other legislators from different states plan to file similar bills. 

Bipartisan Bills In Congress

Bipartisan bills in Congress that would have penalized drug manufacturers for raising prices above inflation rates for Medicare Part D enrollees died last year.

“If we waited for Congress, we’d have moss on our backs,” said Sen. Karen Kesier of Washington, a Democrat who sponsored the state’s bill that would impose tax on drug price hikes. 

According to data from ICER, two of the drugs that could be subjected to tax penalties under the legislation are Enbrel and Humira — blockbuster prescription drugs which are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and a few other autoimmune conditions. 

A recent report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform stated that Amgen has raised the price of Enbrel ever since acquiring it in 2002, by 457%, amounting to $72,240 for a year’s treatment.

According to Kaiser Health News, Amgen denied the allegations that Enbrel’s price increase comes without any clinical evidence and said that the company makes sure that every patient in need of the medications has “meaningful access” to them. 

On the other hand, Humira, the world’s best-selling drug, has seen an increase of up to 470% in price since it was released to the market in 2003, according to AnalySource, a drug price database.  

Drug manufacturers who are known for their lobbying power strongly oppose the measures taken by lawmakers. “The outcomes of these policies would only make it harder for people to get the medicines they need and would threaten the crucial innovation necessary to get us out of a global pandemic,” the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America reportedly stated in a written statement. 

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