New bill calls for more transparency in drug prices

6:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 Politics
Pharmacist Kyle Fields counts pills at Waynesville Pharmacy, Dec. 2, 2016. The Dayton Daily News has been digging into the complex system behind how prescription drugs get priced. KATIE WEDELL/STAFF

A consumer protection bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives this week aims to increase transparency in prescription drug pricing.

“Action is needed to address the rising prescription drug prices to protect Ohio consumers,” said state Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, one of the sponsors of House Bill 479. “Prescription drug pricing in its supply chain is complex and broke and needs to be scrutinized.”

INVESTIGATION: Why do prescription drugs cost so much?

The bill would ban the controversial practice of pharmacy clawbacks, when pharmacy benefit managers — the middlemen between pharmacies and insurers — over-inflate the cost of prescription medications at the point-of-sale and then pocket the money the patient was overcharged.

The bill would also ban pharmacist gag orders, which contractually prevent a pharmacist from discussing the true cost of a prescription medication with their customer.

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Under current practice, in many cases, pharmacy staff are not allowed to talk in detail to customers about pricing, or reveal the real cost of the medication they’re buying, under threat of losing their contracts with pharmacy benefit managers and insurers.

Douglas Anderson is a professor of pharmacy practice at Cedarville University. He said there is a great need for regulatory reform, and this plan is a good first step.

“If we can help some patients by lifting the so called gag order from the pharmacies so they can discuss what the cash price will be for a particular prescription that would be a good thing,” Anderson said.

VIDEO GUIDE: How do prescription drug prices get set?

The plan has the backing of the Ohio Pharmacists Association.

At Wednesday’s news conference at the Statehouse, the pharmacists association credited investigative reporting from the Dayton Daily News and other media outlets for spurring the need for action on prescription pricing.

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