American Pharmaceuticals Keep Getting More Expensive, And Drug Market Transparency Isn’t Likely

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

State and federal regulators may encounter a few road blocks as they push for greater transparency in pharmaceutical pricing.

A recent Vermont law, the first of its kind in the U.S., aims to peel back the curtain on the rather obfuscated drug market. The law instructs state officials to report up to 15 drugs that had price increases by at least 15 percent in the previous year, or 50 percent over the last half-decade, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Vermont’s attorney general then must investigate and clarify any discrepancies in an official annual report. Companies have to disclose in a written statement to Vermont’s AG why the drug’s price is rising so rapidly.

The first report was issued a month ago and shows a key flaw in an otherwise prudent measure. The law has a confidentiality agreement between state regulators and pharmaceutical companies, such that none of the companies written, detailed responses can be published.

While all the companies that had steep price increases were listed, none of their answers to the attorney general’s office are included. Instead, the report gives a cursory explanation, listing no specific details or responses from company leadership. This is a loss for consumers or medical professionals seeking answers as to why the cost of their drug is increasing so dramatically.

Americans’ chief concern regarding drug pricing is ensuring that high-cost drugs for chronic diseases stay affordable for all. In fact, 76 percent of Americans hold this belief, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Pricing of pharmaceuticals came into the public discourse when it was discovered in August that Mylan, the maker of the life-saving epinephrine injection device EpiPen, raised the price of the EpiPen 461 percent in under a decade.

Vermont is not the only state to take up price transparency measures, California has also taken up the initiative. National politicians have taken to the idea as well. Sens. John McCain and Tammy Baldwin put forth bipartisan legislation last September that would require drug companies to justify any price increases to the federal government over 10 percent.

For its part, the pharmaceutical industry has heavily lobbied against any measures to increase pricing transparency.

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