Rep. Conley plans to introduce bill that would require drugmakers to report prescription price hikes

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Jul. 24—JANESVILLE — Wisconsin state Assembly Rep. Sue Conley plans to reintroduce a bill that would force pharmaceutical companies to notify the state of major increases to the cost of prescription medications.

The bill was first introduced by Conley's predecessor, former Rep. Deb Kolste. As the 2017 version of the bill would have done, Conley's proposal would require drugmakers to give the state Department of Health Services notification if they intend during any two-year period to increase the wholesale cost of any pharmaceutical drug by 25% or introduce a name-brand drug with an annual wholesale cost of $30,000 or more.

It also would require drugmakers to provide the state annual notice of cost increases to any generic drug of $300 or more or if drugmakers intend to mark wholesale costs of $3,000 or more for any generic drug.

Conley, a Janesville Democrat, said if pharmaceutical companies had to give the state such notice, it might give drugmakers pause before enacting wholesale price hikes on drugs.

"It just it's kind of a baseline just to put some transparency behind drug prices," she said. "I suppose that if the drugmakers have to notify the state that they're going to have huge increases, they might think twice about doing that."

Conley pointed to major price hikes the last few years on insulin, a crucial medicine used to treat diabetes, a disease that afflicts about 10% of Wisconsin residents, according to state health data.

Insulin can cost uninsured diabetic patients $350 to $500 a month after drugmakers put massive price hikes in place without advanced notice to diabetic people who would need the medicine. That would account for about a third of the overall cost to treat diabetes—a cost that has risen drastically over the past half-decade.

Under the new bill, any manufacturer of a brand-name or generic drug sold in Wisconsin that is part of a manufacturer-sponsored assistance program would be required to submit to the state an annual report that describes the criteria for participation, the program terms, the number of prescriptions and the total market value of assistance provided to state residents under the program.

The measure would also allow the state to track changes in cost in some of the most widely used prescription medications in Wisconsin. The state would be required to provide a rolling analysis and report that lays out trends in drug pricing on its website.

Penalties for drugmakers not complying could total $10,000 a day, according to the proposed bill.

Conley said she has not heard individual feedback this year from constituents on drug prices, but she entered office as a new member of the Assembly with the intention to relaunch Kolste's earlier bill, which never received a committee hearing in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Conley said she has not gotten word from her Republican counterparts whether there is bipartisan support for the bill.

"I think that the bill makes a lot of sense. I could see quite a bit of pushback, though, obviously, from drug manufacturers because they're not going to want to have to do more reporting," Conley said. "So we'll see what happens."

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