Lamont, Baker tout similar plans to curb high drug costs
The Democratic governor of Connecticut and the Republican governor of Massachusetts joined forces Tuesday to publicly pitch similar legislative proposals for curbing prescription drug costs, plans that would financially penalize drug manufacturers for excessive price increases.
The governors contend their respective plans, which set price benchmarks that manufacturers would have to meet, will help consumers budget for the cost of medications and possibly lower the price of the medications over time.
“I think together we can make a difference and show the rest of the country how we can make the drug pricing a lot more predictable for some folks who need it,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. He noted Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had proposed working together on drug pricing during a congratulatory phone call after Lamont was first elected in 2018.
Massachusetts’ proposal was originally offered in previous years and was included as part of Baker’s fiscal year 2022 budget plan. It would impose a penalty on drugmakers that increase the price of a drug by more than the consumer price index plus 2% in one year.
The penalties imposed have been estimated to raise about $70 million, money that would support community health centers and community hospitals.
In Connecticut, Lamont’s bill would also tie drug prices to the rate of increase in the CPI plus 2% of the medication’s price as of Jan. 1. While the state would also impose financial penalties, the administration hopes that companies will limit their future price increases and avoid having to pay a fine, said Vicki Veltri, executive director of the state’s Office of Health Strategy. Any penalties assessed will be deposited in an account to help make health insurance more affordable for individuals.
Both governors’ bills are currently awaiting action in their respective legislatures. And both bills have received pushback from the pharmaceutical industry, which has argued the two proposals could threaten drug research.
“Allowing the government to arbitrarily set prices on life-saving medicines could slow innovation and make it harder for patients to get the medicines they need,” said Priscilla VanderVeer, vice president of public affairs at the pharmaceutical industry trade group PhRMA, in a statement issued Tuesday. She also called the proposal “dangerous and misguided.”
Boehringer Ingelheim, based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, issued a statement saying it “stands firm that the new drug pricing cap bill will hurt, not help patients, while also stifling innovation.” Meanwhile, Pfizer, which has locations in both Connecticut and Massachusetts, said the legislation will hurt efforts to expand access to medicines and negatively impact future scientific innovations, as well as the economies of both states.
Both governors denied their proposals will stymie research. Lamont contends the “innovation investment costs are baked into the original price of the drug and all we’re doing is capping the increase going forward.”
Jay Gironimi of Groton, Connecticut, who was first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant, appeared on Tuesday’s Zoom news conference with the two governors. He welcomed the legislation in both states, explaining he has spent years “jumping through hoops” trying to afford the medication he needs.
“I’m lucky right now I have a job that provides me with good insurance coverage, but I know that could change at any minute. It’s not easy to work full time when you can’t breathe,” he said. “I live in fear of the day I have to face the $32,000 fee it costs me to stay alive for a single month. I do not have that money.”