Georgia Senate passes bill aimed at prescription prices
ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Senate unanimously passed legislation on Thursday to restrict practices by pharmacy benefit managers — companies that run prescription drug coverage for insurers and other groups — just a day after the state House took similar action.
The bill would require pharmacy benefit managers, called PBMs, to pass along discounts they receive from drug manufacturers for a particular medication to consumers. It would also subject PBMs to surcharges for ordering patients to use an affiliated pharmacy and require them to cover the cost of prescriptions at other pharmacies, among other provisions.
It passed the Senate by a vote of 52-0, after the House passed a companion bill 165-1 on Wednesday.
Supporters of the measure are concerned that PBMs — viewed as middlemen by critics — are overcharging patients, squeezing pharmacies and stifling competition that could bring down drug costs.
PBMs argue that drug makers are responsible for setting initial prices, and they use their purchasing power to achieve savings.
“Some of the business practices of some PBMs have a fairly significant amount of conflict of interest,” said state Sen. Dean Burke, a Republican from Bainbridge who sponsored the bill. “The point of this bill is to allow our Department of Insurance to have the ability to audit these plans.” Burke said the bill would add transparency to pricing and rebate practices.
Burke said that the bill was a first step in combating the rising cost of pharmaceuticals in Georgia but said he wanted to continue to examine drug pricing and other aspects of the system in order to lower costs for patients.