Frustrated By Federal Inaction, Michigan Legislators Prepare to Tackle Drug Prices

August 22, 2017

 

The Trump administration has criticized rising prescription drug prices, but its actions have not matched its rhetoric. Trump and his advisors have proposed no real plans to curb high drug costs, even though they are affecting millions of Americans. Fortunately state governments have not been idle. Frustrated with this administration's inaction, Democratic state legislators in Michigan are urging the creation of a state board that would require drug companies to justify price increases above a certain amount.

 

State Representative Sam Singh, the Michigan House Democratic Minority Leader, is leading the charge. He recently told reporters that "the fact that Washington D.C. is refusing to take action on these issues is disappointing. So we're going to do whatever we can on the state level to move this conversation forward until they actually take action."

 

The proposed bill would create a thirteen member state consumer protection board with certain powers. If drug manufacturers raise the prices of medicines more than 10% in a single year, they would have to provide good justifications for these increases to the board. If they do not, the board could fine them $100,000 per day, and it could request that Michigan's Attorney General investigate the companies. However the board would not have the power to order the companies to lower drug prices.

 

Skyrocketing drug prices are hurting Michigan patients. Like in other places, many people are skipping treatments, cutting their pills in half, or simply going without medicines because the costs are too high. Others are being forced to choose between the drugs needed to keep them healthy or paying for their rent and groceries. One man named Garrett Clinard cannot afford medication to treat his joints because the price has gone up by $200 per month over the last ten years.

 

The bill to establish the board will be introduced after Labor Day, when the Michigan state legislature comes back into session. It is unclear how much support it will have from Republicans. GOP Representative Hank Vaupel, the chairman of the House Committee on Health Policy, told reporters he favors making health care more affordable but he can't comment on the bill until he has examined it. Vaupel also said he "would much prefer to see the [drug pricing] industry come up with some solution."

 

The industry has repeatedly failed to come up with solutions to the problem of high drug prices. If Vaupel follows the approach of self-regulation, he will be waiting a long time for any results.

 

We encourage the Michigan legislature to pass this bill, and to enact future measures ensuring that Americans pay reasonable prices for medicines.

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