September 05, 2018

Senate Passes Wyden Bill to Ensure Fair Prices at the Pharmacy Counter

Bipartisan legislation would ban drug middlemen from imposing “gag clauses” on pharmacies

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today announced the Senate unanimously passed his bill that would crack down on outrageous gag clauses blocking pharmacists from telling customers they could pay less for their prescription if they pay out of pocket.

“Pharma middlemen have been taking advantage of America’s broken drug pricing system for too long – banning pharmacists from telling customers the lowest available price for their medication is another flagrant example,” Wyden said. “I’m pleased that the Senate was able to say loud and clear that this practice has to stop. The House should immediately pass this bipartisan bill and the president should sign it into law before any more seniors and families get ripped off.”

Many customers don’t know 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 percent of the time. And many pharmacists are frustrated that they can’t help their customers save money.

The bipartisan 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 when there is a difference between the cost of the drug under the plan and the cost of the drug when bought without insurance.

Other co-sponsors of the Know the Lowest Price Act are U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Barrasso (R-WY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dean Heller (R-NV), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Wyden has long said the entire drug supply chain must be addressed, recently releasing a report outlining the supply chain’s tangled webs that leads to higher costs for consumers and taxpayers.

He has also introduced bills that ensure drug middlemen show how much value they are actually passing along to consumers and that call on pharmaceutical companies to justify massive price hikes.

The Know the Lowest Price Act now goes to the House for consideration.