State legislation aims to improve access to generics
With the recent passage of Senate Bill 5203 (SB 5203), Washington has become the latest state to try to improve access to generic drugs.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee promulgated SB 5203 on May 12.1 The law allows the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) to partner with other states, nonprofits, and state agencies to produce, distribute, and purchase generic drugs.
It also requires state-bought health insurance programs to source generic drugs through the partnership, according to a statement from Senator Kevin Van De Wege, who sponsored the bill.1
“It is common knowledge that Americans pay much more for everyday prescription drugs than our neighbors to the north and south,” he said in the statement. “People shouldn’t have to go bankrupt paying for common drugs like insulin instead of cheaper generic alternatives commonly available in other countries. “
The law specifies that all drugs must be produced or distributed by an FDA-registered pharmaceutical company or generic drug manufacturer and requires that any HCA partnership translates into savings for buyers and consumers. In addition, healthcare providers, local governments, private entities and others can purchase generic drugs from the HCA when availability permits.1
“The higher prices Americans pay for drugs that cost much less in other countries are a national disgrace,” Van De Wege said. “This long overdue legislation will free up money for other important household needs, at least for people here in Washington.”
In particular, the law allows the HCA to forge partnerships to purchase and distribute branded insulin in order to ensure accessibility to the essential drug that has no real generic equivalent due to patent laws. Other companies would still be able to develop a generic insulin substitute that HCA could purchase and distribute.
ute at lower prices.1
Other states have also considered legislating to improve access to generic drugs, with varying degrees of success. In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom enacted SB 852, which he said would lower prescription drug costs for consumers, employers and taxpayers.2
In January 2020, Newsom proposed a first plan to the country to create a state-sponsored generic drug label, and SB 852 brings the state closer to that goal. Under the bill, sponsored by Senator Richard Pan, the California Health and Human Services Agency will develop manufacturing partnerships to produce or distribute generic prescription drugs, with the goal of making drugs more accessible and affordable.2
“The cost of health care is way too high,” Newsom said.2 “Our bill will help re-inject competition into the generic drug market, removing pricing power from the big pharmaceutical companies and returning it to consumers. “
Authorities in California have begun the process of identifying potential target drugs and developing a strategic plan to promote the purchase and manufacture of generic drugs by the state. The state also moved all Medi-Cal pharmacy services from managed care to out-of-pocket payment by the state this year, which strengthens the state’s ability to negotiate better prices with manufacturers.2
These legislative changes by states represent a broader need for accessible and affordable medicines. People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, have a particularly high need for affordable drugs.
“Prescription drugs don’t work if people can’t afford to take them,” Pan said.2
- The Van De Wege bill authorizing lower-cost generic drugs becomes law. Press release. Washington Senate Democrats. May 13, 202 Accessed May 18, 2021. https://senatedemocrats.wa.gov/vandewege/2021/05/13/van-de-wege-bill-to-allow-lower-cost-generic-drugs-becomes-law/
- Governor Newsom signs legislation advancing California’s fight to lower prescription drug prices. Press release. Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. September 28, 2020. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/09/28/governor-newsom-signs-legislation-advancing-californias-fight-to-lower-prescription-drug-prices/#:~:text=Earlier% 20this% 20year% 2C% 20Governor% 20Newsom, un% 20step% 20closer% 20to% 20reality