Driven by the State of Maryland legislature, a new type of drug affordability board represents the first of its kind and industry sponsors should take notice. Why? Citizens in that state will organize themselves to start demanding more accountability and transparency in drug pricing. For example, Vinnie DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative notes “you want to charge all this much for these drugs? Justify it!” As reported by local WBAL TV, a prescription drug affordability board is a first for this nation. Starting as a bill directly impacting households, it has evolved among local legislatures to start with state and local government. They are airing advertisements and generally infusing a level of populist activism into the world of drug prices.
If this passes, a five-member board will wield authority. It can review actual costs of brand names entering the market at $30,000 or more per annum; existing brand names that increase by $3,000 or more per year or during the actual court of treatment—it can review generic medications with price increases of $300 or more per year. WBAL TV, again quoted Mr. DeMarco who believes “the prescription drug affordability board created by this bill is a path-setter for the whole country.”
Viewing it as a price control mechanism and impediment to commerce, the Pharmaceutical lobby (PhARMA)–Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America–opposes the potential law. PhARMA positions that the legislation “also overlooks the reality that insurers and other middlemen determine what patients pay out of pocket and what treatments they can get. At the same time it provides no real certainty that any individual will pay less for their medicine.”
TrialSite News talks to folks all over the United States about drug prices. Localized, state by state initiatives such as this one could pick up steam; especially with the progressive blocks forming nationwide. Whether it is the right thing or not is beside the point. There is a perception that they are too high. PhARMA will need to be a little more innovative in how they engage and interact in this type of dialogue. Although seemingly just one organization with little actual teeth to impact the national drug market, if this type of activity spreads to states across the nation it represents a different level of public relations game. Transparency and evidence in a value-based system is where we are headed. With American federalism, more action may occur at the local and state level. Embrace where the market wants to go. Transparency! Open things up and dive into the complexity, costs and risks of developing drugs. Where profit margins may be eroded, the corresponding brand uplift will more than make the difference in the long run.