Senate Dems introduce prescription drug oversight board bills following governor’s speech ⋆
Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced another tool to combat high drug prices, seeking to fulfill another one of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fall priorities.
State Sens. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) and Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) put forth a package of bills — Senate Bills 483, 484 and 485 — to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, an independent body that will set upper payment limits on prescription drug costs.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for the creation of this board in her “What’s Next” address, citing recommendations from the state’s Prescription Drug Task Force established in 2020.
“Let’s further lower the cost of prescription drugs by implementing the task force’s remaining recommendations, like establishing an independent, nonpartisan prescription drug affordability board.” Whitmer said in the speech.
Whitmer centers health, energy, economy and democracy in ‘What’s Next’ address
“We need to hold bad actors across the supply chain accountable for skyrocketing prices, while also encouraging [research and development] for new treatments and cures made right here in Michigan,” she said.
In addition to researching, reviewing and setting upper limits on the most expensive prescription drugs, the board would also review prescription drug costs and evaluate their impact on Michiganders. According to a statement from Camilleri’s office, the public can weigh in and provide comment to the board, like with any public board.
In a Tuesday press conference announcing the bills’ introduction, lawmakers, health care professionals and advocates for the public discussed how drug costs have impacted Michiganders.
“As I talk to my constituents across downriver and western Wayne County, one thing is very clear: Prescription drug prices are too high,” Camilleri said.
“This is a crisis that has only been getting worse for years. We have been talking about this for way too long, and today we are doing something about it,” he said.
Rob Davidson, a West Michigan emergency physician and the executive director of the Committee to Protect Healthcare, said he has seen the impacts of high drug costs firsthand.
“Physicians across Michigan know how devastating it is for our patients’ health when they simply cannot afford the medications we prescribe,” Davidson said. “This can be very detrimental, endangering people’s health, livelihood and families. It can cause serious health setbacks and put lives at risk.”
Sarah Stark, a patient advocate who has insulin-dependent diabetes, said she had seen the cost of insulin jump from $25 to more than $300 in the past 26 years.
“Insulin dependent individuals average four vials a month, which is the equivalent of a mortgage payment on a home for a family of four in the state of Michigan,” Stark said.
“On average, one in four insulin patients have had to ration their life saving medication,” Stark said.
In the past, Stark worked with mutual aid networks made up of diabetics across the country to help crowdsource funds for insulin and related financial needs.
“In doing so we keep each other alive,” Stark said.
“There’s only one reason drug prices are as high as they are. And it’s because they can be. We need our elected officials to step up and stop this from happening,” Stark said.
If passed, Michigan would join a handful of other states with Prescription Drug Affordability boards, including Maryland, Colorado and Washington, whose laws also allow them to set upper price limits on high-cost drugs.
Michigan’s board would have five members appointed by the governor and would consist of nonpartisan leaders in economics, health care, the supply chain and academics with no personal or financial stake in the pharmaceutical industry. There would also be strict rules in place to prevent politicians, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry or special interest groups from influencing the board’s decisions.
The board would also be advised by a 21-member council composed of industry and advocacy experts who will identify opportunities that could trigger an investigation into a drug’s costs and send them to the board. This council would consist of seven members appointed by the House speaker, seven appointed by the Senate majority leader and seven appointed by the governor.
Lawmakers and advocates noted the effort to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board would likely face strong pushback from the pharmaceutical industry.
Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet | courtesy photo
“You’re gonna hear a lot of opposition. Big Pharma is opposed, because it works,” said McDonald Rivet. “They’re running slick advertisements against [a board] because it works, and their army of 1,800 individual lobbyists oppose the policy because it works.”
This opposition shows a step in the right direction, Stark said.
“What we need as patients are price caps. Until we can get there on a federal level, I urge our elected officials here in Michigan to create a [Prescription Drug Affordability Board] so we can rein in these skyrocketing costs so that everyone can afford their medication,” Stark said.
“We all know the big companies have an army of lobbyists working for them and it’s past time we have somebody looking out for us.”
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authored by Kyle Davidson
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