May 9, 2017 01:40 PM

A set of bills moving through the state Legislature’s ongoing regular session would create new layers of disclosure in regard to prescription drug pricing in Louisiana.

The policy push has caught the attention of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents companies that research, develop and market medicines. They’re also companies that are being targeted by via the drug pricing legislation.

State Sen. Fred Mills
Photo by Robin May

As such, PhRMA has invested heavily in the session by hiring a squad of skilled lobbyists and attorneys. The team is voicing serious concerns about SB 59 by Senate Health and Welfare Chair Fred Mills, R-Parks, and HB 436 by House Insurance Chair Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge.

The bills represent the top legislative priority — in terms of playing defense — for PhRMA in the state this year. Both of the bills, as originally introduced, would require that average wholesale drug prices be disclosed to prescribing physicians and others, although opponents argue that it’s the prescription co-pay that really matters.

Talbot’s bill would likewise subject violators to unfair trade practices. Mills' proposal did the same, but amendments attached in early May helped alleviate that particular concern for opponents.

Out of the two, Talbot’s bill has a further reach and calls for a Prescription Drug Review Committee to be created within the Insurance Department. That committee would be charged with getting to the bottom of what is driving the costs of prescriptions.

The bill would also place this “legislative finding” into law: “The Legislature of Louisiana hereby finds that the costs of prescription drugs have been increasing dramatically without any attributed reason.”

That’s a proposed finding that opponents are countering by offering lawmakers stacks of literature to the contrary.

“All we want to do is set up some level of transparency,” says Talbot, adding that his bill could possibly be scheduled for an initial hearing this week.

Mills says he is working with a variety of stakeholders to sharpen the focus of his SB 59.

Opponents are urging the bill authors to instead take a closer look at what’s in place in Florida, which is a state-created website that details the top 300 drugs and their retail prices by county.

Some business interests share the same concerns as PhRMA in relation to the two bills, particularly when it comes to the addition of a new regulatory framework, which they argue could lead to unnecessary litigation.

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