The Detroit News: Camilleri: Independent board would lower drug costs in Michigan

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to my constituents, and one of the things I hear most often is that prescription drug costs are too high.

We know we can’t rely on prescription drug companies to lower prices. That has been the status quo for too long, and it’s become clear we need a large-scale change if we want to truly address exorbitantly priced prescription drugs.

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provided real relief for Michiganians on Medicare costs, including a $35 cap on insulin per dose and a $2,000 limit on out-of-pocket costs that starts in 2025. And recently, Biden announced 10 costly drugs that Medicare is now empowered to negotiate to reduce prices.

This is a great start to reducing healthcare costs, but I believe we can and should do more on the state level for all families. Earlier this month, I was proud to introduce Senate Bill 483, legislation that would create a nonpartisan Prescription Drug Affordability Board (also called a PDAB).

Essentially, a PDAB helps bring prescription drug costs down with an independent board of experts that researches and reviews drug prices and other relevant factors. If they determine that a drug presents an affordability challenge to the state or its citizens, they can establish what’s called an upper payment limit, or UPL, for that particular drug.

A PDAB is not a new concept: Six other states have already created them, and we already have similar public boards for utilities like water and energy. It’s time to make sure there’s a nonpartisan review process in our state and that life-saving medications are truly accessible to everyone.

Every year, prescription drug costs go up. That tracks with drug companies’ profits, which continue to skyrocket. Between July 2021 and July 2022, drug prices rose 31.6% — nearly four times the inflation rate. In 2023, drug companies raised prices on almost 1,000 medications, and half of all new drugs cost $150,000 or more each year.

A PDAB would directly lower the cost of certain prescription drugs at the point-of-sale, which means we’re going straight to the root of the issue. Not only do you and I stand to benefit from this when we pick up our prescriptions, it will also benefit employers, pharmacists, health insurance companies and other entities in the prescription drug supply chain.

This won’t be an easy fight. Big Pharma has 1,800 lobbyists working hard to influence elected leaders, and they will fight hard to protect the status quo in Michigan. In states that have stood up to drug companies and passed legislation empowering Prescription Drug Affordability Boards to review Big Pharma’s drug costs and rein in runaway costs, they have spent millions to spread misinformation to protect massive profits.

Michiganians from all political backgrounds overwhelmingly support independent reviews of prescription drug costs, and elected leaders have a responsibility to help ensure all families can afford their medications.

Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D-Trenton, represents Michigan’s 4th District.

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