Yesterday consumer advocates and unions won a sweeping victory in Nevada. SB 539, a bill to reduce the prices of drugs used to treat diabetes, was signed by Governor Brian Sandoval into law. This bill requires greater transparency and accountability for both drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and other states should follow suit and enact similar laws.
The bill focuses on two specific groups of drugs, insulin and biguanides, which are used to treat diabetes. It requires manufacturers of these drugs who have raised drug prices by a certain amount to disclose information about the costs of making and marketing the drugs, along with information about the rebates they provide. PBMs also have to disclose the rebates they negotiate with diabetes drugmakers along with the rebates that they keep. Additionally PBMs must act in their insurers’ best interests and cannot ban pharmacists from discussing lower-cost drugs with their patients.
Drug sales representatives have to register with the state government and disclose details about the conversations they have with doctors and hospitals. And finally, nonprofits will have to reveal whether they get funding from drug companies. Most patient advocacy groups do get that funding, and that often makes them reluctant to speak out and organize against high drug prices. The group we recently mentioned, Patients for Affordable Drugs, does not take money from those companies, and so they are free to focus on measures to reduce drug costs.
Insulin has been used to treat diabetes for a century, and the list price of the most commonly used insulin has increased by 300% over the last decade. In Nevada about 281,000 adults (12% of all people) have one of the two types of diabetes. Nationwide, millions of Americans have the disease and rely on insulin treatments.
This bill would not have become law without the excellent work of State Senator Yvanna Cancela. At first Governor Sandoval seemed unsure about the bill, but he eventually decided to sign in, despite the substantial opposition from Big Pharma. We thank them both for their work and look forward to other states passing similar measures.