Medicine

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Del. Karrie Delaney (D-Chantilly) announced new legislation in the General Assembly to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) last week. 

The legislation, if passed, would create a group of independent healthcare experts appointed by the governor that would analyze prescription drug products and their affordability. The board would be required to meet four times annually and report its findings to the General Assembly. The PDAB would also be able to vote on whether or not to impose payment limits on drugs that present affordability challenges. 

At a Jan. 10 press conference, Petersen announced that the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed the bill. As of Jan. 16, the Senate bill has been referred to the Finance and Appropriations Committee. The House bill is still awaiting committee referral. 

“Virginians are paying too much for their medicines, and I’m glad the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee took action today to lower those costs,” said Petersen. “Next stop is the Senate Finance Committee, where I look forward to presenting this bill again. I know my colleagues on that committee will do right by working families and advance this bill to the floor. It should not be this expensive just to stay alive.” 

A report from the Altarum Institute showed that Virginians spent 36 percent more per person on prescription drugs than the national average in 2020 and that one out of every four Virginians chose not to take their prescription medicines due to high cost. 

“You shouldn’t have to choose between life-saving medication and putting food on the table,” said Delaney. 

With spiraling costs of prescription drugs, these numbers may rise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prescription drug prices rose an average of 31.6 percent in 2021. A 2021 Prescription Drug Price Transparency Report from the Virginia Department of Health showed that Virginians spent $3.2 billion on prescription drugs. 

SB957 and HB1596 have been supported by Virginians for Affordable Medicine, AARP, the Virginia Council on Aging, and Freedom Virginia. 

“The most common concern I hear from my fellow members across the Commonwealth is the high cost of prescription drugs,” said AARP Virginia State President Joyce Williams. “Medicine only works if you can afford it.”

“A Prescription Drug Affordability Board would save money for hardworking people who are just trying to stay healthy and alive,” said Rhena Hicks, executive director of Freedom Virginia. “We applaud Democrats on the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee for voting to let people keep more of what they’ve earned by capping what they pay for their prescriptions.” 

According to a 2022 Mason-Dixon poll sponsored by Virginians for Affordable Medicine 88 percent of voters support the creation of PDAB. Similar legislation has been passed in seven other states. 

This is Petersen’s second attempt at creating an affordability board. He withdrew similar legislation last year claiming it didn’t garner enough support.

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