Insurers jump into battle over drug prices at state level

Health insurers in Virginia want to require more pricing transparency from the pharmaceutical industry, but drug companies are pushing back by saying this could be the first step toward government-related price controls that would stifle future innovations, according to an Associated Press article.

Insurers are pushing for legislation in the state that would require pharmaceutical companies to publish the cost of developing, manufacturing and marketing the prescriptions that cost $10,000 or more for a single course of treatment. The AP notes that Virginia is the latest in a number of states where health insurers have tried similar measures since last year. The efforts elsewhere have failed so far, according to the article.

Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, said that drug companies are doing all they can to misinform the public about the bill because they don't want anyone to know how much they spend on advertising a certain drug rather than research and development. "They want to muzzle the conversation entirely," he told the AP.

But a spokesperson for the drug company trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America pointed the finger at insurance companies, saying they are trying to demonize drug manufacturers and put the blame for rising healthcare costs on them.

Meanwhile, in California, residents will be voting on legislation that would require the state to drive a harder bargain with drug companies so it doesn't pay more for medications than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to an article from CNN. Additionally, a proposed law in Washington state seeks to cap consumers' out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs, and efforts are under way in New Mexico to create a task force on pharmaceutical pricing.

As the debate over high drug costs continues among policymakers, health insurers are also sounding the alarm about what they consider unsustainable pricing that hurts their bottom lines and threatens quality care. There are signs, though, that both sides can work together, as a former Anthem executive and current Lilly executive explain in a recent blog post.

To learn more:
- here is the AP article
- read the CNN article