Keeping an eye on drug prices

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Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, made headlines when his company increased the price of an important and existing AIDS drug by a whopping 5,000 percent. While that situation garnered much attention, prices for another 20 name brand drugs quadrupled in the last two years, and another 60 at least doubled!

These massive spikes hurt patients and are a huge strain on Vermont’s budget. For instance, despite paying for 12.5 percent fewer prescriptions of the antipsychotic drug Abilify than it did six years ago, VT Medicaid actually pays 66 percent more today in total on the drug. Existing program, fewer patients, jacked up price, $1.8M additional cost to taxpayers.

To help address this, a committee I served on crafted a law this year requiring manufacturers of drugs which have seen price hikes of more than 50 percent in the previous year to explain the increase in detail to the Attorney General’s office. While drug companies like to tout their research and development costs as a reason, too often the price hikes are related to nothing more than marketing and profits. It’s our belief other states will follow suit by requiring this price transparency, and that drug companies will be hesitant to jack up their prices once people can see where the money is going.

Ideally, Congress would take the lead in reigning in these excesses, but we can’t let Washington’s inaction prevent us from using the tools we have to make progress.

Please contact me at timashe@burlingtontelecom.net with any questions.

By Senator Tim Ashe

Chittenden County