SALEM — Oregon’s Prescription Drug Price Transparency Program is the first in the United States to gather and publicly disclose comprehensive data about prescription drugs.
Even before the inaugural public hearing on Nov. 19, 2019, Oregonians were sharing stories of how the cost of drugs affect their lives.
Insurance Commissioner Andrew Stolfi read from personal stories shared by Oregonians at the start of the hearing held at the state capitol in Salem.
The first story came for a nurse who helps patients with diabetes:
“I often found my patients would simply go without their diabetes medications because they could not afford them. We had a pharmacy at our safety net clinic that could provide lower cost medications, but even with our lower prices, many patients could not afford insulin and other diabetes medications.”
Stolfi also shared a heartbreaking story from an Oregonian who cannot retire because of the cost of prescriptions:
“My spouse needs to take Eliquis, 5 milligrams, twice-a-day. A 90-day supply costs $1,343. Again, why so much? My spouse has nine different prescriptions that have to be taken. Another costs $400 for a 30-day supply. My spouse is retired, and Social Security is only $1,200 a month. I continue to work to receive insurance benefits to cover those drug costs. I cannot retire until my spouse dies; I can’t afford to.”
These stories strike at why the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Program was enacted during the 2018 legislative session. The program focuses on creating transparency about price and cost information from drug manufactures, sharing information from health insurance companies on how prescription drugs drive insurance costs, and providing consumers with a way to report prescription drug price increases.
Public hearings are one of the ways to both share and gather information.
“Our goal is to provide an outlet for individuals to share their personal stories regarding prescription drugs and how rising prices have affected their lives,” said Cassie Soucy, Prescription Drug Price Transparency Program coordinator. “We are responsible for sharing those stories and the data behind them with legislators.”
Some of the findings shared at the public hearing:
- U.S. consumers typically pay five times more than the highest price globally for prescription drugs. The median price for cardiovascular drugs reported to the program was $580, while the majority of prices in other countries ranged from $5 to $164.
- Average annual price increases reported to the program is about 10 percent to 20 percent, and manufacturers attribute this to rebates, the use of co-pay assistance programs, obligations to shareholders, research and development costs, and other related factors.
- Humira, a drug used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, was reported as the most costly drug, costing insurance companies approximately $220 million to fill claims for about 6,000 Oregonians in 2018. Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, a pain reliever, was the most prescribed drug with over 325,000 Oregonians filing claims at a total cost of $8.6 million.
There was a full room at the hearing in Salem, and Oregonians were able to attend satellite locations in Astoria, Medford, and Pendleton. These locations offered a live stream of the hearing and accepted public comment from those in attendance.
“The personal stories we have received and the data we have collected create a strong narrative that represents the struggles of many Oregonians,” said Stolfi. “We look forward to sharing this narrative with the Oregon Legislature and seeing the policy changes that come from it.”
Oregon Legislators moderating the hearing were Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward from Senate District 17, Representative Ron Noble from House District 24, and Representative Rob Nosse from House District 42.
Information on Oregon’s Prescription Drug Price Transparency program is available online. The website includes a recording of the hearing, presentation materials, and a way for Oregonians to share their experience with prescription drug prices.