The recent editorial titled, “Eliminating gag clauses a good first step, but more work to be done with drug pricing,” rightly praised the good work of both federal and state lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, to bring relief to patients at the pharmacy counter.
The editorial highlighted a common-sense measure that ends a practice used by pharmacy benefit managers to prevent pharmacists from informing patients that their medicine may be cheaper if they pay in cash rather than using their insurance benefit. These schemes are known as “gag-clauses.” A package of bills to eliminate gag-clauses passed Congress and was signed into law by the President last week. A similar proposal was signed into law in Louisiana over the summer.
These reforms empower patients to be knowledgeable health care consumers and help ensure pharmacists have the tools available to save patients money. Both are critical steps toward fixing a broken health care system that isn’t working in the best interests of patients.
What was left out by the editorial is that Louisiana lawmakers didn’t stop there. During the 2018 regular session, a group of bipartisan lawmakers joined forces to pass unprecedented reforms that will further help ensure Louisianans have access to affordable medicines.
State Sens. Fred Mills, R-Parks, Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, state Reps. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, and Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas led the charge on legislation that ensures patients have more information about whether or not they benefit from the massive rebates and discounts biopharmaceutical manufacturers give to entities in the supply chain, like insurers and PBMs.
These rebates and discounts added up to $150 billion last year alone, and in many cases, were never shared with patients. Instead, these rebates and discounts stay with the middlemen who then use that money to increase their own profits, lower premiums or fill other holes in their budgets.
Patients want to know more about what they pay at the pharmacy and why and whether or not they are getting value from the treatments they receive. These reforms, supported by patient groups across the state, help deliver those answers.
This group of lawmakers and their many colleagues who joined them in supporting these groundbreaking proposals should be recognized for delivering unprecedented reforms on behalf of patients across Louisiana. Likewise, Gov. Edwards should be commended for signing into law innovative solutions, Acts 371 and 579, to enhance affordability for patients when they visit their local pharmacy.