RICHMOND, Va. — Today, the House Commerce and Energy Special Subcommittee #5 voted to put big pharmaceutical companies’ interests above those of Virginians who depend on life-saving medicine.
The bill, Senator Chap Petersen’s (D-Fairfax) SB 957, would have created a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that would comprise a small, independent group of health care experts to analyze the affordability of certain high-priced prescription drugs and institute reasonable limits to protect consumers from harmful price-gouging.
Rather than assist Virginians – including state and local governments – with the ballooning cost of prescription medicines, Delegates Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), Delegate Amanda E. Batten (R-James City), Michael Webert (R-Culpeper), and Joseph McNamara (R-Salem) chose pharmaceutical companies’ profits over the health of Virginians. This bill was killed without even giving the full House of Delegates the chance to consider it, despite the massive popularity of the legislation among voters of all political persuasions.
“I am beyond disappointed to see this critical legislation to provide much-needed relief for Virginians go down today,” said Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax). “This shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue, this is simply a Virginian issue. Skyrocketing prescription drug costs affect everybody: our seniors, our families, our children, and it’s up to us to solve this issue and rein in out of control costs. While today didn’t go the way I wanted, I won’t stop fighting until we make prescription drugs more affordable.”
A 2022 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 82% of Virginians – including wide bipartisan majorities – support the establishment of a PDAB, and 56% of Virginians have personally felt the negative effect of the rising cost of medicine. Today, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published an editorial saying “if the governor and, more specifically, his Republican teammates in the General Assembly, want to help the state’s residents pay their bills: Do something about prescription drugs.”
The bill had passed the Senate earlier this month by a 26-13 margin with significant bipartisan support. Petersen’s bill had the backing of a broad range of groups, including AARP Virginia, the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Association of Counties and the Commonwealth Council on Aging.
“We are very disappointed that a specially created subcommittee killed legislation that would help Virginians afford needed medications without any discussion or debate,” said AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau. “They stopped a bill that passed with bipartisan support in the Senate and is backed by a large majority of voters. It’s fair for their constituents to ask why.”
Today’s development comes after PhRMA, the trade association for drug manufacturers, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration testified against SB 957.
Over the last decade, Virginians have been shouldering a greater burden of prescription drug costs than most Americans. In 2020, Virginians spent 36% more per person on prescription drugs than the national average: $1,500 in Virginia compared to $1,100 nationally. From 2015 to 2020, Virginians’ average spending on prescription drugs rose from $1,400 to $1,500 – a 6.6% increase, more than twice the national increase. Last year, Virginians paid a combined $3.2 billion on prescription drugs in the commercial market.
“Hardworking Virginians are struggling to just get by and are looking to their legislators to help them keep more of what they earn,” said Rhena Hicks, Executive Director of Freedom Virginia. “Virginia politicians have talked a big game about affordability, but today House members failed to act on those promises. Rest assured, after making huge progress this year and winning a key victory in the Senate, we will keep fighting for Virginians’ financial freedom next session.”