Tester proposes bill to keep prices down for prescriptions

by Bill Vander Weele, Sidney Herald

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is hopeful that his SPIKE act will lead to lower prescription drug costs for Montanans.

Tester’s Stopping the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping Drugs Expensive bill would require prescription drug companies to provide information when there is a significant price increase on any prescription drug.

“Ask anyone in Sidney, Havre or Red Lodge, and they’ll tell you that prescription drugs prices are out of control,” Tester said during a media conference call last week. “We are seeing outrageous increases in price for drugs as old and proven as insulin.”

The senator noted prescription drug spending has increased from 2 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2014.

“My best friend who has had diabetes since elementary school has seen the price of insulin go from $2 to $175 a vile,” Tester said. “His story is not unique.”

There are two triggers in Tester’s proposal. The first one comes when a drug costs at least $10 per dose and its price increases 300 percent over five years or 100 percent over one year. The second trigger is if the drug is in the top half of the most expensive drugs for Medicare or Medicaid to buy and the price of the drug goes up 50 percent over five years or 15 percent over a year.

If a pharmaceutical company hits a trigger, it will have to publicly report the following information: Price paid for the materials and manufacturing of the drug; Price paid for patent acquisition and licensing; Cost to purchase or acquire the drug from another company (if applicable); Price paid on research and development, including the amount of federal research and development funding received; Revenue and profit generated by the drug since approval; and Price paid for marketing and advertising.

“This legislation will require pharmaceutical companies to publicly report to the Department of Health and Human Services if they are significantly raising the price of their drugs and why,” Tester said. “Forcing these pharmaceutical companies to disclose valuable information if they gouge their consumers will hopefully deter this harmful practice.”

The senator also said again that he is willing to work with Republicans to create new health care legislation. He said accountability and accessibility are vital.

“This legislation, which was crafted behind closed doors and continues to change with back-room deals and special interest buy-offs, will hurt Montana patients, Montana’s rural hospitals and Montana families,” Tester said.

The senator has held more than a dozen listening sessions and town hall meetings to discuss health care concerns.

“I think I can work with anybody, and I think we can get something done,” Tester said.