Public outcry over rising prescription costs has grown substantially over recent years. Senate Bill 17, aimed at increasing pharma transparency on drug price hikes, could be voted on soon.
The bill, introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would require drug companies to notify state health programs and private insurance companies 90 days before raising a drug's price. They'd also be required to state changes that affect the drug's effectiveness.
Concerned consumers like Monique Hooper are frustrated over rising costs.
"You have to make a choice -- if I'm going to eat, if I'm going to put gas in my car, or am I going to get my medication," Hooper said. She added her brother couldn't afford medication for a blood clot, which led to his condition worsening. "It moved from his leg to his chest. And then it changed from one blood clot into three blood clots.”
"By reporting out those prices I think you are going to see cost pressures put on it in the industry," Senator Hernandez said. "I'm hoping in the long term we'll get some adequate data, but more importantly, start to stabilize the drug prices."
This is the second time a drug pricing bill has gone through legislature. Last year, a bill was introduced, but was heavily amended and pulled.
Supporters say SB 17 would pressure drug companies into lowering prices. Big Pharma companies strongly oppose the proposed bill, with some officials claiming it doesn't factor in rebates and insurer discounts.
William J. Newell, executive officer of Sutro Biopharma, recently wrote an op-ed piece in the Sac Bee, stating the bill would "do nothing to reduce costs or help sick patients. Instead, it will undermine innovation."
SB 17 has passed the assembly appropriations committee and moves next to the assembly floor.
In the meantime, Hooper hopes industry changes come soon for consumers like herself.
"A lot of people should matter to somebody. I think that's the problem -- people don't matter. Their pockets matter. What they pay you matters. But the person themself doesn't matter."