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Shining a Light on Drug Prices

BY TOM EPSTEIN – The cost of prescription drugs has quadrupled since 2001, according to Milliman’s Medical Index. Americans deserve to know whether these accelerating price increases are justified, and a courageous state legislator is taking action to require transparency of drug pricing.

While pharmaceutical companies have developed innovative, life-saving medications for some diseases, the huge price tags for blockbuster drugs -- and many other treatments that are not major advances -- create potentially devastating roadblocks for patients’ access to care. It also puts a major strain on the health system, leaving taxpayers, consumers and employers to bear an unsustainable burden.

Prescription drug prices are a major concern of our members and consumers in general. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly 3 in 5 Americans believe prices are unreasonable and that the government should take action to lower them.

Blue Shield shares their concern and is engaged in efforts to make prescription drug pricing more transparent. That is why we support Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez’s Senate Bill 1010. This bill will require drug makers to give prior notice to members and customers before raising prices and asks health plans to report the proportion of premiums spent on prescription drugs. The goal of the measure is to provide purchasers with more timely information about drug price increases and shine a spotlight on drug pricing behaviors.

If you agree that the public deserves more information on surging drug prices, let your Legislator know. Send a letter, a tweet or email to express your support.

For more information about why drug pricing transparency is important, read Senator Hernandez’s blog post about SB 1010.

Tom Epstein is vice president of public affairs at Blue Shield of California