WASHINGTON — Representative John Larson voted Tuesday for legislation to force pharmaceutical companies to provide more transparency when it comes to setting prices.
“Shining a light on the drug pricing system represents the first step to lowering drug prices for all Americans,” Larson said after the House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously in support of House Resolution 2113, the Prescription Drug Sunshine, Transparency, Accountability and Reporting (STAR) Act.
The legislation comes as public pressure increases on Congress to address recent price spikes for some medications — including Insulin, EpiPen, and Daraprim. There remains broad disagreement among lawmakers over how to rein in prescription drug costs, but members agree more information from the companies is where the effort begins.
“Without adequate information, Congress cannot do its job to protect the American people from the exorbitant drug prices we have seen the last few years. The drug pricing system has operated in a cloak of secrecy for too long,” Larson said.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said the STAR Act is a first step in addressing the “drug pricing crisis.”
“If consumers and payers — like large employers — know more about the drug-pricing process, they will have more tools to make informed health-care decisions and be better purchasers of drugs. And this can drive down overall system costs,” he said.
Neal and Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the committee, pledged in February to work together to find a solution to rising drug prices.
“Consumers, taxpayers, employers, and our public programs like Medicare and Medicaid are all bearing the burden of years of high prices, unsustainable price increases, lack of transparency, and incentives in our government programs that too often reward high prices,” they said before a February hearing. “We are committed to working together to end this cycle while preserving access to life-saving innovations.”
In a joint statement Tuesday, Neal and Brady agreed more work needs to be done to address the problem but that the STAR Act would bring “sunlight across the health care supply chain, from pharmaceutical manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers, to help reduce costs for families.”
The bill would:
• Require manufacturers to report on the causes of high drug prices. When a product increases more than 10 percent a year or 25 percent over three years, manufacturers must report on the cause of that increase;
• Direct drug and device companies to publicly report the price and quantity of the free drug samples that they give to providers;
• Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to publish information about the discounts and rebates that pharmaceutical benefits managers — or PBMS — achieve in negotiations. This information would be provided to the public in aggregate by class of drug, but a way that will not reveal competitive information;
• Mandate a study about the causes of price increases for drugs used in hospitals;
• And, require all drug manufacturers to report average sales prices if their drug is covered under Medicare Part B.