RICHMOND, Va. -- When state lawmakers return to Richmond for the 2023 General Assembly session on Wednesday, a group of Democratic lawmakers are hoping to convince their colleagues to pass legislation to create a board to review and limit certain prescription drug prices.
"This is an issue that I think whose time has come," said Senate co-sponsor Sen. Chap Petersen (D - 34th), who introduced the legislation last session before withdrawing it. "Prescription drug costs have been spiraling out of control for years. We all know it and it's absolutely one of the most serious issues that we face in our society."
The Department of Health and Human Services says prices for more than 12-hundred drugs rose higher than the rate of inflation between July of 2021 and 2022.
The PDAB would be tasked with reviewing drugs that debut with a high initial cost or see an increase that hits a certain threshold over a 12 month period and determine if the initial cost or increase is warranted and, if not, set what is called an upper payment limit (UPL).
"What we want to do is have a data-driven process where experts in the field are able to hear testimony, look at the facts, and determine if we're seeing the price of a drug go up by 36%, four times the cost of the rate of inflation, let's hear the explanation for why that is," said Del. Karrie Delaney (D - 67th), who is sponsoring the bill in the House. "If there's a good explanation for it, the board will have the opportunity to consider that. But, if there really isn't data to support these rising costs, then we need to be able to stand for our constituents and say that there needs to be reasonable cap because people can't afford this and they need these drugs to live."
The five board members would be experts in the field and be appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and approved by the General Assembly.
When asked about bipartisan support for the measure, Petersen said they will find out.
"But let me say, I will represent that I have spoken with the Governor directly about this bill and he didn't say no. I just said, here's what we're doing and I pitched it as, not just consumer protection, which, of course, it is, but also taxpayer protection. Because, of course, Medicaid is the biggest consumer of all," said Petersen.
A spokesperson for Gov. Youngkin said he would review the legislation if it comes to his desk.
The legislation is also getting support from several groups, including AARP, which says it will help more than just Virginians' own wallets.
"It will also save Virginia taxpayers money by reducing expenses on prescription drugs for the Commonwealth and its localities," Jared Calfee, AARP Virginia's associate state director, said.
If approved, the legislation has a delayed start date of Jan. 1, 2024.