Testimony In Support Of HB 3223 and SB 627 an Act to Promote Transparency in Prescription Drug Prices before the Committee on Health Care Financing

The Massachusetts Medical Society wishes to be recorded in strong support of House bill 3223 and Senate Bill 627, An Act to promote transparency in prescription drug prices. These bills would require that manufacturers of 15 “high cost” prescription drugs provide the Attorney General’s office with an explanation of those costs, and that  manufacturers planning to increase the price of a drug more than 10 percent,  or to introduce a new high-cost drug, submit an explanation to the Health Policy Commission (HPC). The bills would also require manufacturers to participate in the HPC’s annual cost trend hearings and provide testimony on price hikes.

Research demonstrates that the complexity and a lack of transparency in the prescription drug distribution system contributes to high prices and makes our healthcare system less efficient.[1]

These bills, consistent with current MMS policy, represent an important step forward in achieving greater transparency in the pharmaceutical industry and promoting improved value in health care. In 2015, faced with growing evidence of the negative impact the rising cost of drugs on clinical care and patient health, the Medical Society adopted policy to promote prescription drug price transparency from pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy benefit managers, and health insurance companies. 

The Medical Society has closely watched research on pharmaceutical spending nationally and in Massachusetts over the past several years, including HPC Cost Trends Reports which have for two years in a in a row found that prescription drug spending remains the largest single contributor to increased health care costs, accounting for roughly one-third of per-capita growth. Yet for the physician community, rising pharmaceutical costs are not just a strain on global budgets or large systems. Rising drugs costs impact individual patients, often jeopardizing optimal care because out-of-pocket costs are not sustainable.  

The various analyses about the pharmaceutical spending in Massachusetts, from the HPC, as referenced above, to the Attorney General’s Office, and many academic researchers, are critical to achieving a greater understanding of the issue, and to help frame subsequent policies to address the rising costs of pharmaceutical drugs. While such reports highlight the continued concern about the strain that rising prices place on the health care system and the need for continued discussion about appropriate policy responses, such studies are always highly conditioned upon the shortcomings of data. Many studies lack robust information on drug rebates, while others are unable to understand the fees from pharmacy benefit managers. The data compelled via these bills would help fill some of these gaps, and again will provide greater insight into the most appropriate policy solutions directly improving the knowledge base of this critical segment of health care spending.

The Medical Society approaches this issue with a keen awareness of the value of prescription drugs and their development. MMS President Henry L. Dorkin, MD, FAAP recently noted, "While there is no doubt that innovation in medicine has enabled physicians to improve patient outcomes, quality of life and – in some cases, life expectancy – those results are threatened when the cost of medicines – both new and those which have been prescribed and effective for several years - becomes a substantial barrier.”

The MMS urges the Committee on Health Care Financing to report HB 3223 and SB 627, An Act to promote transparency in prescription drug prices out of Committee favorably. 


[1] The Commonwealth Fund. (2017). Getting to the root of high prescription drug prices: Drivers and potential solutions. Retrieved on July 14, 2017 from http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/fund-report/2017/jul/waxman_high_drug_prices_drivers_solutions_report.pdf?la=en.

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