Did drug pricing bill pass? Ruff says it would damage ‘innovation’

Published 1:20 am Thursday, February 9, 2023

RICHMOND – Depending on how the next week goes, Virginia could soon have a structure set up to control drug pricing. By a 26-13 vote on Friday, Feb. 3, the Virginia Senate voted to approve SB 957, also known as the Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Fund. 

The idea is to create a group of five individuals, all appointed by the governor and approved by the General Assembly. All of these people would have a background in healthcare. This group would be in charge of “identifying prescription, generic and other drugs that are offered for sale in the Commonwealth and, at the Board’s discretion, conduct an affordability review of any prescription drug product,” the bill states. 

Basically, this group would examine pricing of all prescription drugs in Virginia. If the board runs across a drug priced at the point it would cause “high out of pocket costs” for Virginia residents or in general is priced where most people who need it can’t afford it, then the board would be allowed to step in. They could establish an upper price limit on the drug. 

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Again though, that’s if it passes the Virginia House, which it still needs to do. There was also some pushback on the bill from a local representative in the Virginia Senate. State Sen. Frank Ruff voted against SB 957, saying putting a cap on prices would “stifle innovation”. He also said he believed if drug prices were capped like this, pharmaceutical companies would leave Virginia for other states. He claimed it would drive jobs away. 

“If Virginia is going to compete for these jobs in this industry do we want to enact this type of legislation that sends the wrong message to the industry?” Ruff argued to the Senate. “Do we need to work to control cost? Yes, of course we do. But this sends the wrong message.” 

Speaking on the Senate floor, Ruff didn’t say what he saw as the right way to control cost. 

What happens next with drug pricing?

While Ruff opposed it, along with 12 other state senators, AARP has come out strong in support of the bill. The group presented an analysis Wednesday, detailing the fact that between July 2021 and July 2022, the price for more than 100 drugs grew faster than inflation in Virginia and across the country, climbing an estimated 32%. 

The bill was sent to the Virginia House Committee on Commerce and Energy on Wednesday, Feb. 8. It has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.