Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont are teaming in an attempt to lower the price of prescription drugs by limiting annual increases in drug prices to no more than inflation plus 2%.
“I think far too often there are very significant increases in the price of critical drugs that ultimately harm patients that rely on these treatments and increase costs to the system at-large,” Baker said during a virtual press conference.
Connecticut has introduced similar legislation to limit annual drug price increases and both bills are winding their way through the legislative process.
Lamont, who owned a small cable company before getting elected governor, said he knows how important health care was for his employees, but he hasn’t made it the focus of any big policy push until this year.
“What we’ve gotta do now, and I think Massachusetts has taken the lead for some time, is not just to make health care more affordable but make sure you can afford to use it,” Lamont said. “And make sure we can bring down the underlying costs.”
He said the partnership with Massachusetts is the “beginning of something that is incredibly important.”
The pharmaceutical industry says the measure will hurt research and development.
“Allowing the government to arbitrarily set prices on life-saving medicines could slow innovation and make it harder for patients to get the medicines they need, Priscilla VanderVeer, VP of Public Affairs, PhRMA, said. “Rather than lowering out of pocket costs by fixing the system that forces many patients to pay more for their medicines than their insurer, these governors are trying to make Connecticut a test case for a dangerous and misguided proposal that has failed to get support in Massachusetts several times.”
VanderVeer said it was ironic that Baker was getting his COVID-19 vaccination that same day as he was promoting this policy change.
“The success of this country’s biotech and pharma industry in producing vaccines in an incredibly short period of time that are enormously effective once they were given the genome profile of COVID-19, honestly, it’s a miracle,” Baker said.
However, he said that’s a lot different than what they are talking about here, “which is a market in which a majority of the products that get sold every single day have been on the market for years and in many cases decades.”
He said this problem continues every year and “go way beyond anything that looks like inflation.”
But drug companies like Boehringer Ingelheim disagree.
“The new drug pricing cap bill will hurt, not help patients, while also stifling innovation,” the company said in a statement. “As we’ve discussed with policy makers, BI stands ready to be a resource and share our knowledge to be a part of impactful solutions that will support patients and innovation. Our focus has always been on innovating first-in-class drugs and ensuring access to life-enhancing medicine – this bill will not support either for our patients.”
BioCT’s President and CEO, Dawn Hocevar, says the proposals in both states are flawed.
“The Connecticut biopharma industry’s current growth curve is where Massachusetts was 20 years ago, and just like Massachusetts, Connecticut should be doing everything it can to support the growth of this industry to ensure the state becomes a respected nucleus of innovation,” Hocevar said. “If Governor Baker wants to stifle innovation in a year where science has proven its worth, then let him take that risk in Massachusetts.”