Hold on to Your Hats: A Good Health Bill Might Actually Pass in California

Hold on to Your Hats: A Good Health Bill Might Actually Pass in California

New bills in the New York legislature are designed to prevent inducements to switch prescriptions. But what about a bill to improve patients’ likelihood of sticking with the therapy they were first prescribed?

According to a recent literature review in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 20% to 50% of chronically ill patients do not adhere to their prescribed medical therapy. You would think that the government would want to get out of the way of anything that might improve that.

So, California state senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) has introduced a bill, SB 1096, that would allow pharmacies to use third parties (bulk mailers) to mail information to patients that would remind them to take their medications appropriately. To allay privacy worries, the information would go no farther than that.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Wrong: David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times reports concerns that the real pushers of this bill are brand-name drugmakers, who would actually pay the pharmacies to do this. Why? According to Mr. Lazarus, this would short-circuit competing drugmakers’ attempts to switch patients to their medicines.

So, if you are an innovative drugmaker or pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), you are increasingly out of luck. The states don’t want you to induce patients to switch from a competing medicine, but they also don’t want you to induce patients to stick with your medicine. I guess patients and doctors are just supposed to face “inducements” from the state itself!

But generic drugmakers and pharmacies are having a grand old time with consumer-driven health care: Safeway just announced it’s following its rivals’ offers of $4 prescriptions for 30-day supplies of generic meds. Brand-name drugmakers cannot compete on price like this. They have invested billions in inventing their medicines, and they can only compete on information.

SB 1096 will improve patient communications, adherence to therapy, and maybe even reduce health costs. I can’t believe it’s about to happen, but the California legislature might actually pass one good piece of health care legislation this year!

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.