September 25, 2018

Congress Clears Wyden Bill to Help Oregonians Get Lower Drug Prices at the Pharmacy Counter

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today applauded congressional passage of a bill that cracks down on pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) practices restricting consumers’ ability to get the lowest possible price on their prescriptions.

The bill, called the “Know the Lowest Price Act,” cleared the House of Representatives and now goes to the president’s desk for signature.

“I’m glad Oregonians will be able to find out if they can get a better deal on their prescriptions,” Wyden said. “Before this bill, drug middlemen placed artificial barriers on pharmacists so they couldn’t tell their customers if it was cheaper to pay out of pocket than with their insurance. Stopping this outrageous practice is an important step, but there’s more work to be done to lower prices and fix America’s broken drug system.”

Many customers have no idea that they could pay less for their prescription if they pay out of pocket rather than using their insurance at the pharmacy counter. That’s because many pharmacists are prohibited from telling their customers that a prescription to treat diabetes or high blood pressure may cost only $8 out of pocket instead of $20 through insurance coverage. One 2018 report found that customers overpaid for prescription drugs at the pharmacy counter 23% of the time. And many pharmacists are frustrated that they can’t help their customers save money.

The “Know the Lowest Price Act” cracks down on this practice by prohibiting Medicare Part D plans from restricting a pharmacy’s ability to provide drug price information to seniors when there is a difference between the cost of the drug under the plan and the cost of the drug when purchased without insurance. Congress also cleared a similar bill today that would extend this ban on pharmacy gag clauses to individual and employer-sponsored insurance as well.