Bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs move out of health committee

The House Health Care Committee recently held a series of work sessions on bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs. The bills focus on a variety of potential methods to lower costs, including PBM reform, consumer education, and manufacturer transparency.  

However, at Thursday’s House Health Care Committee meeting, lawmakers focused on bills aimed at establishing bulk purchasing partnerships and importing pharmaceutical drugs.

 

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HB 2679 would direct the administrator of the Oregon Prescription Drug Program to solicit an agreement from authorities in California to cooperate on a bulk prescription drug purchasing agreement, while HB 2680 would direct the administrator to work with Canadian provinces or territories on an agreement.

During the work session, HB 2679 passed unanimously and was sent to Ways and Means. The bill to work with Canada on bulk purchasing, however, faced opposition. During the meeting, some lawmakers questioned the likelihood that this kind of partnership would be successful.

This literally sounds like a Canadian wild goose chase. I think we direct our agencies…to do a lot of things – the shiny whistles and bells that don’t amount to anything,” said Vice Chair Rep. Cedric Hayden.

The bill ended up passing out of committee on a 6-4-1 vote, along party lines.   

Thursday’s meeting also included a work session on HB 2689, a bill requiring the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to design, and seek federal approval for, a program to import wholesale prescription drugs from Canada.

There was some confusion in committee on the difference between HB 2689 and HB 2680.

“This bills says that we would become an importer of drugs from Canada, rather than work out an arrangement where we would bulk purchase with them,” explained Vice Chair Rep. Rob Nosse.

Similar to the Canadian bulk purchasing bill, Republican members of the committee spoke in opposition to the import bill, asserting that Oregon should evaluate the success of other states with similar laws in their legislatures.

“I’m waiting for someone else to blaze the trail,” Representative Ron Noble said. “I think we don’t need to be doing this. So I am no longer a sponsor on this bill and will be voting no.”

Rep. Denyc Boles agreed, saying,

“I just think it would be prudent to let other people spend their money in other states pursuing this.”

The bill also passed out of committee along party lines.

Another bulk purchasing bill, HB 3397, had its work session on Tuesday afternoon. This piece of legislation would require OHA to contract with a purchasing agent to assist the authority in purchasing prescription drugs for “medical assistance recipients.” The bill would establish the Oregon Medicaid Purchasing Cooperative to advise OHA and the purchasing agent on purchasing options and on leveraging rebates.

Rep. Hayden, who is the chief sponsor of the bill, discussed the legislation in a recent Q&A with State of Reform.

“[HB 3397] basically deals with giving opportunity to buy our pharmaceuticals under Medicaid in one centralized area. What we do now is we allow coordinated care organizations (CCOs) to go out and negotiate and cut their own deal — which they like from the standpoint of they have control over those dollars; they can save some money,” Hayden said. “But I look at it from the perspective of, we’re buying pharmaceuticals at retail, at Rite Aid, rather than buying them at a wholesale manufacturer or something like that. Meaning, we don’t leverage purchasing power.”

The committee voted the bill out of committee to Ways and Means unanimously.