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WA Drug Price Transparency Bill to Reduce Patient Cost Burden

A Washington bill aimed at increasing drug price transparency and reducing patient cost burden has passed the state's House of Representatives.

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Source: Thinkstock

- The Washington State House of Representatives passed a bill requiring drug manufacturers to offer better price transparency, helping to alleviate patient financial burden.

Representative June Robinson sponsored the bill, which passed by a modest margin of 52-46 on Monday and will now move on to the Washington State Senate.

The bill was drafted in response to rising drug costs and patients facing financial barriers to accessing their treatments, and aims to reduce the “sticker shock” many patients encounter when paying their medical expenses.

If passed, the bill will require drug manufacturers to publicly report drug price increases as well as offer a justification for the increase.

Although the bill will not regulate drug prices, Washington House Democrats say that holding drug manufacturers accountable for price increases will keep drug prices under control.

Better price transparency will also allow patients to budget for upcoming medical expenses, Robinson said.

“When health care costs go up, you have to adjust your budget. But for far too many people, costs aren’t just going up; they’re skyrocketing unfairly and putting families in the position of not being able to get the care they need,” Robinson said in a statement. “This bill will provide the information we need to make sure that our healthcare isn’t compromised while drug companies maximize their profits.”

Rising drug costs (i.e. the EpiPen price increase that made headlines last year) are harming patients in Washington, causing them to make difficult spending decisions, Robinson explained.

“No one should be forced to choose between paying for life-saving drugs or putting food on the table,” she asserted. “Too many Washingtonians are forced to make this difficult choice every month, especially when the cost of prescriptions increases suddenly.”

Issues surrounding drug prices and medication access are plaguing patients across the country.

Studies show that better access to treatments and medication adherence can bring eventual healthcare cost savings, in some cases saving up to $37 for every dollar spent.

However, when medications are too expensive or patients encounter unexpected drug price increases, they often forgo treatment.

A May 2016 survey from the Physician’s Foundation found that patients cannot afford their medications, with 18 percent of patients reporting having skipped doses of medications and 27 percent reporting they neglected to fill prescriptions altogether.

Data from the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) shows that 61 percent of patients have been surprised by a medical bill.

Limiting drug price transparency can considerably limit a patient. Patients may think there is only one standard cost for certain drugs, neglecting to research generic – and less costly – variations of the medication, or explore alternative treatment options. Instead, many of these patients go without care.

Other researchers have indicated that making drug costs more affordable – either through subsidies, cost transparency, or overall drug price regulation – can boost medication adherence.

That’s the ultimate goal of the Washington bill. When drug companies have better price transparency, patients can take further measures to help mitigate often prohibitive healthcare costs. Patients can choose to use a generic drug, or can budget their personal finances that will allow them to purchase a costly medication.