(TNS) -- SACRAMENTO — The nation’s most comprehensive legislation aimed at shining a light on prescription drug prices is heading to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
SB 17 — approved by the Senate on a 31 to 8 vote on Wednesday — aims to make drug prices for both public and private health plans more transparent.
It would do so by requiring pharmaceutical companies to notify health insurers and government health plans like Medi-Cal at least 60 days before scheduled prescription drug price hikes that would exceed 16 percent over a two-year period. It would also force drug companies to explain the reasons behind those increases.
The bill, authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, and co-authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, needed 21 votes to pass.
Brown has until Oct. 15 to decide which bills will become law, and Hernandez is confident that SB 17 is on that track.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, he said that even though the bill passed the California legislature, “if signed into law, SB 17 will set national health care policy, having impact for consumers and providers in other states.”
“Price increases don’t happen in a vacuum,” Hernandez said. “SB 17 is one of the most transformative pieces of health legislation in the country.”
The bill has been strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which deployed legions of lobbyists and paid for full-page newspaper ads leading up to the Legislature’s final votes on the measure this week, partially out of fear that SB 17 could become a national model and the first major step toward price controls.
“It’s unfortunate that lawmakers chose to score political points instead of addressing patients’ concerns with access and affordability to medicine,” Priscilla VanderVeer, spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement issued Wednesday evening.
“We will reach out to the Governor to share our concerns with the harm this legislation could bring and convey our sincere interest in real reform that helps patients.”
A related bill authored by Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, also will land on Gov. Brown’s desk after it passed out of the legislature Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 265 would prohibit prescription drug manufacturers from offering discounts for name-brand drugs, if a less-expensive equivalent brand is available, preventing the use of higher-priced drugs when unnecessary.
©2017 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.