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VA advocates upset about prescription drug affordability veto

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Thursday, April 11, 2024   

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed legislation making prescription drugs more affordable. The bill would have created an independent body to evaluate drug prices and determine if increases are reasonable.

Surveys show the issue has support across party lines in the state.

Jared Calfee, state advocacy director for AARP Virginia, is disappointed the bill was vetoed. He said people are taking drastic action to afford their medicine.

"They are struggling to afford their medication," Calfee observed. "They're skipping doses or cutting pills in half, and rationing things like that to stretch out their medicine as long as they can. Those people were really looking for something to get done and now, now that's not going to happen this year."

The General Assembly has the power to override the veto, but not necessarily the votes. The biggest opposition to the bill was from pharmaceutical companies, which said it would hinder research and development. A 2022 report found Stelara, used to reduce inflammation in conditions such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, is the most expensive drug in the state, costing almost $23,000 per dose.

Calfee is confident the General Assembly will take up the bill again next year and feels it has enough momentum to get through both chambers. Now it depends on swaying Youngkin. Calfee argued drug companies cannot keep charging high prices.

"There's no not laughable way for them to justify some of these drug prices and what they're charging for medications, and just the way that they have increased prices year over year," Calfee contended. "Patients who need these drugs to survive are just going to be stuck paying whatever they want to charge for them."

Currently, 11 states have some form of affordability review for prescription drugs, although similar legislation is being considered in several other states.

Disclosure: AARP Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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