ICYMI: The Free Lance-Star Editorial Board Supports Legislation to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

“Here’s a better idea, 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.”

RICHMOND, Va.  — Today, the editorial board of the Free Lance-Star — which covers news in Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, Caroline, Orange, and Culpeper — published an editorial in support of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board and called on the Governor and Republicans in the House to support the legislation.

The bill, Senator Chap Petersen’s (D-Fairfax) SB 957, would create 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.

“The Free Lance-Star joins 82% of Virginians – including wide bipartisan majorities – in supporting the establishment of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board,” said Rhena Hicks, Executive Director of Freedom Virginia. “It’s far past time for legislators to take action to help Virginians.”

After passing the Senate with a wide bipartisan 26-13 margin, the bill is scheduled to be heard later today by the House Commerce & Energy Special Subcommittee 5, chaired by Del. Kathy Byron (R-Bedford).

[Editorial] The Free Lance-Star: Want to help Virginians? Do something about prescription drugs
February 16, 2023

Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to ease Virginians’ financial burden. He said so in his state of the state speech. He’s so dedicated to this idea that he wants to give us $1 billion in additional tax relief. Of course, this is a zero-sum game. That’s a billion that won’t be used to mitigate the damage from years of underfunding schools, mental health care and public safety, among other services.

Here’s a better idea, 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.

Between 2015 and 2019, according to a Commonwealth Council on Aging report, prescription drug costs for Virginians rose 26.3 percent. Average income only rose 16.7 percent.

In September, the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration studied more than 1,200 drug products and found that, in the year ending in July 2022, inflation was a dizzying 8.5 percent. That was nothing, though, compared with what happened with pharmaceuticals. The average increase for drugs was almost 32 percent, nearly four times the inflation rate.

That looks like gouging to us, and it does to some state Senate and House members, too. Del. Karrie Delaney, D–Fairfax, and Sen. Chap Petersen, D–Fairfax, have both proposed that the state form a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. Seven states already have them, including Maryland, which pioneered the concept in 2019.

The five-member board would be appointed by the governor. None of the members would have ties to the drug industry. It would decide whether to impose payment limits when pharmaceutical companies’ prices on certain drugs rose quickly and steeply. It would, in short, set limits.

Of course, the two backers have D’s beside their names. In our politically fractured times, that might mean that the effort dies automatically along party lines. A similar bill in the Senate was withdrawn by Petersen last year when he realized it didn’t have enough support.

This should be a starter for any politician, Democratic or Republican, who cares about constituents’ well-being.

These inexcusably steep price hikes hurt some of the most vulnerable Virginians.

A study by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University found that about 1 in 4 Virginians have stopped taking a prescription drug because of the expense. Reining in those high costs might be better medicine for them than a grandstanding, rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul tax break.

Brigid Godfrey

Brigid Godfrey

Communications Director

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