Advocates support legislation to force transparency in drug prices

Montana 67th Legislative Session

HELENA -- Americans pay four times more on average for prescription drugs than people in other countries, John Doran of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana told a panel of lawmakers Friday in support of Senate Bill 137, introduced by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls.

The bill would force prescription drug companies, pharmacies and health insurance providers to disclose information to Montanans about why prices are so high.

Richard Miltenberger is the CEO of Mountain Health Co-op, and said the bill is an important first step in reducing drug prices.

“This is something we can do -- is create this transparency,” Miltenberger said

Thirteen others joined Miltenberger in testifying for the bill Friday.

Two opponents representing pharmaceutical companies said transparency would be worthless.

Dennis Iverson spoke on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America. He said until the U.S. government puts price controls on pharmaceutical companies, Americans will be forced to subsidize the income drug companies lose to price controls in other countries.

Johnson and Johnson, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, made $14.7 billion in profit last year, according to their year-end report. That is a 17% margin.

When asked by lawmakers about what would happen if price controls were passed in the United States, Iverson said that innovation would be hampered, as research and development often costs several billion dollars.

Johnson and Johnson spent $12 billion on research and development in 2020.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.


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