Working people demand answers from Big Pharma on skyrocketing Rx drug prices

California Labor leads coalition to sponsor SB 17

Big Pharma can raise the price of a vital prescription drug at any time, for any reason without ever telling anyone why. The revenue could be going to buying hover boards for Pharma CEOs but no one would know. Why? Big Pharma spends millions of dollars to send lobbyists to our Capitols to wine and dine our legislators to keep the status quo: Pharma’s unchecked ability to raise prices behind closed doors without having to justify the rate hikes.

Meanwhile, working people across the nation are struggling to pay for the vital prescription drugs they rely on to live. Families are now having to make the heartbreaking decision to delay or skip cancer treatments because they cannot afford the soaring prescription drug costs. The ever-rising cost of Epipens has parents struggling to put food on the table so their kids will be safe if they have an allergic reaction. It only takes 10 seconds on google to find countless cases of Pharma’s prices inflicting harm on families.

This epidemic of soaring Rx drug prices has led to a renewed effort to bring drug pricing transparency to California. Senate Bill 17 (SB 17), authored by Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez and co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation, UNITE HERE and Health Access CA, will promote transparency in the health care system by requiring drug makers to give notice to purchasers before raising prices and requiring health plans to report the proportion of the premiums spent on prescription drugs.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said of SB 17,

“Skyrocketing prescription drug prices are hammering working people and driving up the cost of health care for everyone. When someone is struggling with a life-threatening disease, like cancer or diabetes, they should not have to make the choice between paying for treatment and paying rent. SB 17 brings much-needed transparency to prescription drug pricing to help lower drug prices and contain health care costs.”

While other sectors of the healthcare system have safeguards and transparency requirements in place with regards to cost drivers, the pharmaceutical industry has no such mechanisms in place, leading to unsustainable increases in the cost of prescription drugs.

When announcing the bill today at the Capitol, Senator Hernandez said,

“We deserve transparency in drug prices because the prices drug companies charge for their products have nothing to do with effectiveness, research costs or even to changes in manufacturing costs. The market for prescription drugs is badly broken. Patients who need access to a particular drug don’t have the option to forgo treatment or find another option when the price gets too high.

Despite growing attention on these egregious price increases, the prescription drug industry has shown no shame or remorse. Deflazacort, newly approved by the FDA to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare and fatal disease that impacts 12,000 boys in the country, is the latest drug causing an uproar for families across the country because a year of treatment is estimated to cost $89,000.”

NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer joined the diverse coalition in support of SB 17 and added his support of the bill:

“Behind closed doors, corporate pharmaceutical executives make life-and-death decisions for millions of Californians. This important legislation will help protect our families by introducing transparency and fairness to pricing of essential, lifesaving medicines. It is an essential first step to rein in skyrocketing prescription drug prices.”

SB 17 is a renewed effort after many supported similar legislation – SB1 1010 – last year.

Watch the full announcement here and follow the conversation on Twitter with #SB17!