Drug price gouging in Michigan targeted; Dems in House unveil board plan

LANSING - Saying they’re tired of waiting for Congress to act, Democrats in the state House of Representatives unveiled a proposal today that they hope will stop pharmaceutical companies from boosting the prices of prescription drugs.

They want to create a Prescription Drug Consumer Protection Board that would review increases in prescription drug prices and, if they find the price hikes unjustified, ask the Michigan Attorney General to investigate the matter.

But the board would have no authority to order private drug companies to lower their prices and could request, but not order, the attorney general to investigate cases of price gouging.

House Minority Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, compared the prescription drug board to the Michigan Public Service Commission, which has the authority to review and approve or reject rate increases proposed by the state's public utilities. But the state board doesn't have the authority to dictate prices charged by a private company.

“Prescription drug prices are out of control,” Singh said. “We want to stop price-gouging once and for all.”

He pointed to the astronomical boost in prices for EpiPens, which are used to counteract allergic reactions for different foods and went from $57 in 2007 to $500 last year.

The 13-member board would be made up of consumer advocates, drug purchasers and state department heads. It could compel drug companies to justify price increases higher than 10% in one year or 30% over five years. If the drug companies refused to answer the board's questions,  the board could try to impose fines of up to $100,000 per day.

Democrats plan to introduce the bill when the Legislature returns from its summer break after Labor Day. They hope to attract some Republican co-sponsors for the bill.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, said Republicans haven’t seen the proposed legislation yet to determine whether there will be support in the GOP-controlled House and Senate.

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Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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