Springfield, Ill. – AARP Illinois issued the following statement Wednesday calling for an up-or-down vote soon in the Illinois Senate on HB 4900, which could push Illinois to the forefront of national efforts to rein in surprise price gouging that can lead to massive increases in the cost of specific prescription drugs.
“On April 19, the Illinois House of Representatives gave bipartisan approval, 65-38, to landmark legislation that would put the interests of financially stressed families ahead of pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists,” said Ryan Gruenenfelder, AARP Illinois’ Director of Advocacy and Outreach.
“While generic drug prices can provide good value overall, that’s no help to you if the particular drug you need suddenly costs 500 percent more. There’s no room in many older Illinoisans’ budgets for this kind of price gouging. And yet they must have these prescription medicines to avoid sometimes catastrophic health consequences.”
“Illinois has the opportunity to become a national leader on an issue that is important to older Illinois voters. We’re asking Senate President John Cullerton to allow this legislation to come to the Senate floor for an up-and-down vote. AARP’s 1.6 million members are watching closely, and they’ll remember where our elected officials stand.”
AARP Illinois has 1.6 million members statewide. AARP has reached out to nearly 300,000 Illinois “E-activists” urging them to contact legislators urging passage of HB 4900.
Gruenenfelder shared a personal story of how his life was saved when, as a child, he suffered an allergic reaction that hospital emergency-room staff were able to counteract. Afterward, his parents kept Epi-Pens close at hand to treat a recurrence of this dangerous allergic reaction.
Between 2010 and 2015, according to a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study, the price of Epi-Pens jumped 508 percent. The price for Albuterol sulfate, which treats asthma, jumped more than 4,000 percent and the lifesaving Naloxone Auto-Injector, used to treat opioid overdoses, rose 508 percent in the GAO study.
Generic drugs play a vital role in maintaining the health of older Americans. Some 88 percent of medications prescribed are now generics.
The proposed legislation prohibits price gouging in the sale of a generic drug and sets thresholds for generic drug price increases – 30 percent for the first year, 50 percent for the second year and 75 percent over three years.
Under the bill, drug companies seeking to raise prices above the threshold would have to justify the increases to the state Attorney General, if the Attorney General has reason to believe that a manufacturer or wholesale drug distributor of an essential off-patent or generic drug has violated the act.
State health officials would monitor the costs of generic prescription drugs covered under the state employees’ health plan, Medicaid or the state Medical Assistance Program. If the state health officials see spikes in prices above the law’s threshold, they may notify the attorney general of any increase in the price of a generic drug that amounts to price gouging. Drug companies would have 45 days to show the Attorney General that the price increases are justified.
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