Important First Step on Prescription Drug Affordability

By Jill Zorn

pills-moneyMore and more people in Connecticut can’t afford their prescriptions.  That’s why it was great news when a bill aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for consumers, SB 445, was signed into law by Governor Malloy on July 10.

The bill had bi-partisan support, reflecting its co-sponsors, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano.

SB 445 bans “gag clauses” in contracts between pharmacists and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to enable pharmacists to share prescription drug price information with patients and let them know if a lower cost equivalent alternative is available.  PBMs manage prescription drug costs and access on behalf of insurance companies and employer and government health plans.

The bill also bans “clawbacks” by PBMs which force the pharmacy to charge a patient co-pay, even if the drug costs less than the co-pay.  It will make sure that PBMs don’t pocket the difference between the co-pay and the actual price.

Another provision of the bill allows the Attorney General to collect damages from successful anti-trust law suits against pharmaceutical companies filed on behalf of Connecticut residents who have overpaid for their prescription drugs due to price fixing or other anti-competitive behaviors.  This is important because Attorney General George Jepsen and his staff are currently leading 40 states in a major antitrust case against six generic drug manufacturers.

Universal Health Care Foundation supported the bill and we are pleased to see it made it across the finish line.  Connecticut now joins four other states that have passed similar legislation.  It is an important first step in protecting consumers from paying too much for their medications.

But there is much work left to do to address drug price gouging and the lack of transparency about prescription drug prices.

Next Steps

It’s encouraging to see the Health Care Cabinet has formed four working groups that are focusing on prescription drug affordability.  The groups will start meeting this summer and Foundation president, Frances Padilla, is chairing one of them.

We expect legislators on both sides of the aisle, including Senators Looney and Fasano, will continue to address this issue in the 2018 legislative session.  We look forward to working with them and other advocacy groups to raise awareness and push for solutions to the problem of unaffordable and unfair prescription drug prices.

If you have a story to tell about problems with affording your medications, please send us at email at:  info@universalhealthct.org.


To Learn More:

To track the progress of the Cabinet working groups go here and scroll down to the working groups section.

To learn more about the Attorney General’s antitrust case go here and here.

SB 445 hit some bumps in the road during the legislative process, particularly near the end of the session when Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade raised some objections to the bill.  To learn more about the controversy, go here, here and here.  In an unusual move, Gov. Malloy wrote a letter expressing concerns about the bill on the day he signed it (see the letter at the end of Bill Notification Release 16).

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