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Bill could lower some prescription costs

By Tianna Mosby

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill aimed at helping customers pay the lowest price possible on prescription drugs is headed to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature.

The House and Senate passed identical bills.

“I believe these are consumer-friendly, pro-transparency bills that will benefit people across Virginia by ensuring they pay the lowest available price for their medication and provide community pharmacists the protections they need to operate their businesses and serve customers,” said Del. Todd Pillion, R-Washington.

HB 1177 was first introduced by Pillion, but shortly after, Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, proposed companion bill SB 933.

Current law allows “gag clauses” prohibiting pharmacies from telling customers if a prescription would be cheaper without using their health insurance. If pharmacists were to tell the patient, they could be breaching a contract between the pharmacy and its benefit managers.

Pharmacy benefit managers are the middleman between pharmacies, drug manufacturing companies and health insurance providers. They also handle prescription claims and negotiate fees and pricing.

However, Pillion said community pharmacists are concerned about the lack of transparency with their patients and the practice of what are known as “clawbacks” — when the customer’s co-pay is more expensive than the prescription. Pharmacy benefit managers then profit from the excess that was charged to the patient.

The bill has been backed by such organizations as Virginia Pharmacists Association, National Community Pharmacists Association and Alliance for Transparent and Affordable Prescriptions

If Northam signs Pillion’s bill, it will take effect as soon as July 1.

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