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Sen. Tammy Baldwin Seeks Transparency Around Rising Prescription Drug Costs With Proposed Bill

Bipartisan Bill Seeks To Promote Accountability Among Drug Manufacturers, Is Unlikely To Pass This Session

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin is co-sponsoring a bill calling for more transparency around hikes in prescription drug costs. Lawmakers want to know why manufacturers such as Mylan are charging consumers more for life-saving drugs.

The price of the EpiPen, which treats severe allergic reactions, has jumped from about $100 in 2007 to more than $600 this year. Outrage erupted in August over Mylan’s price hike, leading the manufacturer of the EpiPen to announce a generic version of the drug.

Now, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, are co-sponsoring a bill that would require drug manufacturers to disclose what’s behind those price hikes under the Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act.

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“They would have to set out a series of pieces of information, including what their research and development costs truly are, but also information about things like their executive compensation and other marketing budgets that they employ,” Baldwin said.

In a statement, McCain said Americans have been unfairly burdened by rising prescription drug costs.

“The American people should not be forced to choose between filling a prescription or making their monthly mortgage payment,” McCain said in a release Thursday. “This legislation would bring much-needed transparency to prescription drug prices — a policy that eight in 10 Americans support, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Transparency leads to accountability, and it is past time that mantra applied to the skyrocketing cost of prescription medication.”

Baldwin said the bill would not prevent manufacturers from increasing costs, but it would require them to submit a report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services justifying price hikes of more than 10 percent.

A spokeswoman with the pharmaceutical industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America issued a statement in response to the legislation.

“Patients should be engaged and empowered when it comes to their health care decisions. However, The FAIR Drug Pricing Act will not provide information patients can use,” wrote spokeswoman Holly Campbell. “Instead, it focuses on isolating research and development costs for the few medicines that make it to patients in a thinly veiled attempt to build a case for government price setting.”

The pharmaceutical industry group detailed that research, and development is a long, complicated process where many drugs never reach patients. The group said patients and families should instead be given “clear information about out-of-pocket costs and common-sense rules to prevent discrimination and remove barriers to accessing care.”

In recent weeks, executives of drug manufacturers have raised questions about insurers and whether they’re picking up the costs of prescription drugs. The federal government’s Medicare Part D prescription drug program has seen costs increase by billions of dollars in recent years, from $104 billion in 2013 to $121 billion in 2014.

While the legislation is unlikely to pass this session, Baldwin said it’s intended to build support for transparency in rising drug costs.

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