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WA Lawmakers Seek Solutions to Soaring Prescription Costs

Some Washingtonians are paying up to $700 a month for insulin, according to AARP Washington. (Cagkan/Adobe Stock)
Some Washingtonians are paying up to $700 a month for insulin, according to AARP Washington. (Cagkan/Adobe Stock)
January 17, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Five bills aimed at reining in skyrocketing prescription prices are in front of a Washington State Senate committee today.

Between 2012 and 2017, drug prices rose nearly 60% statewide, while incomes rose only about 10%. Senate President Pro Tempore Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, is a sponsor of the bills getting hearings in the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee.

She says people nationwide have to make tough decisions because of drug prices - and they aren't getting relief from Congress or the president.

"The fact is, states have been acting on these drug prices, because it's so serious a problem and the federal government is not acting," says Keiser. "There have been more than 60 state laws passed last year on drug prices around the country."

Among the bills - an insulin cost cap, a Canadian drug importation program, a tourism program allowing people to buy drugs in Canada, and the creation of a drug affordability review board.

Keiser says there has been bipartisan interest in the Canadian importation program, which would need federal approval, and also the drug tourism program.

Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director with AARP Washington, says some older residents have to choose between paying for food, rent and their prescriptions, and notes that Medicare doesn't always cover all drug costs.

She notes insulin prices are especially worrisome, with some Washingtonians on high-deductible plans paying up to $700 a month for insulin.

"We've also heard stories of individuals who might have two or three children that rely on insulin just to live, and we just do not think it's right," says MacCaul. "And we do not think it's acceptable that the pharmaceutical industry makes millions and billions of dollars on these medications."

Two of the bills attempt to control insulin prices. SB 6087 would cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 per month. SB 6113 would create a centralized purchasing process for insulin, much like the state now uses for childhood vaccines.

A spokesman for the group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says nearly half of the money spent on drugs goes to someone in the supply chain and lawmakers should address this issue instead.

Disclosure: AARP Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA