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Back for 2017: CA Prescription Price Transparency Bill

News  |  By Doug Desjardins  
   December 14, 2016

Lawmakers have also introduced a measure that would require physicians and hospitals to report drug-resistant 'superbugs.'

California lawmakers have introduced bills for the 2017 legislative session that would increase transparency for prescription drug price hikes and require hospitals to report drug-resistant "superbug" infections to state health agencies.

Earlier this month, Sen. Ed Hernandez introduced Senate Bill 17, which would require pharmaceutical firms to justify and explain price increases for prescription drugs. Hernandez authored a similar bill in 2016 that stalled in the state legislature.

"The skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs continues to be one of the biggest factors leading to rising insurance premiums in the state and impacting working Californians," said Hernandez.

"This issue will not go away and the public deserves answers. I look forward to working with my colleagues and stakeholders to ensure that California can begin to rein in out-of-control prescription drug prices."

Patient advocacy group Health Access California said the bill would control unexplained drug price hikes by requiring pharmaceutical companies to justify price increases for prescription drugs.

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"California can't allow unexplained price hike of prescription drugs to continue to harm our health system and our families' finances," said Anthony Wright, executive director for Health Access California.

Last year, Hernandez introduced a similar bill—Senate Bill 1010—that passed the state Senate. However, Hernandez removed the bill from consideration after the state Assembly amended it to apply only to price hikes that increased the cost of prescription drugs by at least 25% or $10,000 in one year.

The amendment diluted the bill to exclude the vast majority of rate hikes, Hernandez said.

Other recent efforts to control prescription drug costs in California have not been successful. In November, state voters rejected Proposition 61, which would have required the state to negotiate costs with pharmaceutical companies and pay prices for prescription drugs that are no higher than prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Critics said the measure was not workable and would have led to lawsuits if it passed.

Mandatory 'superbug' reporting
Another bill introduced for 2017 would require physicians to report cases of antibiotic-resistant infections on death certificates when they are a contributing factor in a patient's death.

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Senate Bill 43, introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill, would require hospitals and physicians to report cases of carbapenem-resistant Entrobacteriaceae and other antibiotic resistant infections to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the CDPH currently require providers to report antibiotic-resistant infections.

"Today, we have to estimate the number of deaths from [antibiotic-resistant] infections," said Hill. "We cannot hope to combat superbug infections without such critical information."

The bill would require hospitals to report cases of antibiotic resistant infections but would not require hospitals to disclose their identity.

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