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California Medical Association fights for new approach to prescription drug pricing



May 17, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Drug Prescribing/Dispensing Patient Care 

Today, in response to the crisis of increasing drug costs impacting patient access to needed medicines, the California Medical Association (CMA), representing the physicians of California with over 41,000 members, called for a new statewide solution to prescription drug pricing, including greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs.


CMA has announced its support this legislative session for Senate Bill 1010 (Hernandez), which would require drug companies to provide at least substantial notice to state programs such as Medi-Cal and CalPERS when drug prices are increased or high-dollar drugs are coming to market and require health plans to identify the specific drugs that are driving the most spending. CMA is also exploring other legislative solutions to provide more publicly accessible pricing information and protect patients from sudden price increases.


“The rising cost of prescription medicines is impacting the ability of California physicians to place patients on the best treatment regimen and provide the very best patient care,” said Steven E. Larson, M.D., MPH, president of CMA. “Improving patient access to needed medicines and increasing transparency around pricing is a top priority for CMA this legislative session.”


At the same time, CMA also announced that it is opposing the prescription drug contracting initiative that is scheduled to be on the November ballot statewide.


“While California’s physicians are profoundly concerned about the affordability of prescription drugs, we evaluated this measure and have concluded it is deeply flawed and unworkable,” said Dr. Larson. “We believe the measure would likely increase – not lower -- state prescription drug costs. Of greatest concern to doctors is that the measure would result in a new bureaucratic prior approval process that could interfere with patient access to the medicines they need.”


The measure prevents certain state agencies from entering into contracts for the purchase of prescription drugs unless the price paid is the same as or lower than the special discounts provided to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). The measure could result in the invalidation of existing agreements between the state and pharmaceutical companies that provide significant discounts to the state.


The cancellation of contracts also would remove many drugs from the Medi-Cal list of pre-approved medicines -- creating a new prior authorization hurdle for patients and their physicians.


“CMA supports real reforms to protect consumers and lower drug costs. But this ballot measure is the wrong prescription,” Larson added.

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