STATE HOUSE – Rep. Aaron Regunberg has introduced
legislation to create greater transparency in the prescription drug industry
and to protect consumers from unreasonable prices for certain high value drugs.
“Everywhere I go across our state, I hear a similar concern
— the monstrous cost of prescription drugs,” said Representative Regunberg
(D-Dist. 4, Providence). “From my next-door neighbors in Providence, to
families in South County, to elders in the East Bay, Rhode Islanders are forced
to make upsetting and unacceptable choices between their prescriptions on the
one hand and their groceries, housing and basic needs on the other — all while
pharmaceutical corporations and their CEOs see profits soar. That’s why the
first new piece of legislation I introduced this year is a bill requiring cost
transparency and limiting the maximum allowable prices that manufacturers may
charge for certain high-cost drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has incredible
influence and power. We need policies designed for all of us who can’t afford
The bill (2018-H 7042),
which Representative Regunberg introduced Jan. 3, would establish a board of
pharmacy to examine how prescription drug manufactures set the price for
certain prescriptions, and give it the authority to set a maximum allowable
price to protect the Rhode Island consumers.
The board of pharmacy would work with the Department of
Health to create an annual list of critical prescription drugs for which there
is a significant public interest in understanding the development of pricing.
Manufacturers of these listed drugs would share information
with the board including the cost of research, production, and marketing for
those drugs. If the board determines that the price of a drug is significantly
high given the manufacturers’ costs, it would have the authority to protect
consumers by setting a maximum allowable price that manufactures can charge for
The process would be a way to prevent price-gouging in an
industry upon which many patients’ lives depend, said Representative Regunberg.
The soaring price of EpiPen, the life-saving injectable
device that can stop anaphylaxis, drew attention in recent years after the
price of a two-pack rose from $103.50 in 2009 to more than $608.61 in 2016.
(EpiPen manufacturer Mylan introduced a generic that costs $300 as a result of
the controversy.) The year before, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired rights to
Daraprim, a drug used to treat the parasite-borne disease toxoplasmosis,
and raised its price by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 per pill to $750. Sovaldi, a
highly effective drug for hepatitis C — is $1,000 per pill, or $84,000
for the 12-week course of treatment.
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist.
75, Newport), Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), Rep. Patricia A.
Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. James N.
McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls).