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Kathy Castor signs on to bipartisan legislation calling for drug price transparency

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tampa Bay-area Congresswoman Kathy Castor is the latest Democrat to sign on to bipartisan legislation that addresses skyrocketing prescription drug price increases.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Representative announced she was co-sponsoring the FAIR Drug Pricing Actwould require manufacturers who increase the price of a drug by more than ten percent a year to disclose the information behind that decision to taxpayers, including their spending on research and development, as well as advertising and marketing.

“We must work to ensure that lifesaving treatments are never out of reach for all of our neighbors and especially our most vulnerable,” Castor said. “U.S. prescription drug spending has already reached a record high of $425 billion in 2015, with expectations that such spending will surpass $600 billion by 2020. The ‘hands off’ approach in the Republican-led Congress has allowed pharmaceutical corporations to stick it to consumers, and that must stop. ”

How bad his the problem become? Thirty-two percent of adults over 50 fail to renew a prescription primarily because of cost, according to a survey by the AARP. A recent study of about 3,000 brand-name prescription drugs found that prices more than doubled for 60 and at least quadrupled for 20 since December 2014, Bloomberg News reported in February.

The legislation would also require drug manufacturers to notify the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and submit a transparency and justification report 30 days before they increase the price of certain drug products by more than 10 percent.

Last week, Castor called for a hearing on the rising cost of EpiPen, calling the hike from $100 in 2007 to today’s price of more than $600 “unconscionable” and a “prime example of unseemly profiteering.” She also stated, “We must bring transparency and accountability to the issue by holding a hearing in our committee and working to ensure that all Americans have access to this lifesaving treatment at an affordable cost.” ‎

The Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations announced last week that it opened an inquiry into the pricing of the EpiPen, which stops allergic reactions by injecting epinephrine into the body. Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, which makes the EpiPen, is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday at a hearing called by Republicans and Democrats on the panel.

“Like many Americans, far too many Arizonans have been unfairly burdened by the rising costs of prescription medication,” said Senator John McCain last week in announcing his sponsorship of the bill in the Senate, alongside Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin. “The American people should not be forced to choose between filling a prescription or making their monthly mortgage payment. This legislation would bring much-needed transparency to prescription drug prices — a policy that 8 in 10 Americans support, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Transparency leads to accountability, and it is past time that mantra applied to the skyrocketing cost of prescription medication.

Supporting the legislation is The Medicare Rights Center, Consumers Union, Doctors for America: Drug Price, Value, and Affordability Campaign, Families USA and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. and Public Citizen.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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