Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo

State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo unveiled a five-point plan Tuesday to develop new legislation to reduce “skyrocketing” pharmaceutical drug costs in Connecticut.

The comptroller will recommend legislation to the General Assembly that would:

  • Require justifications for sharp increases;
  • Establish oversight of drug costs that exceed certain thresholds;
  • Ensure consumers benefit from rebates;
  • Promote insurance plans that emphasize affordable co-payments and preventive care;
  • And eliminate incentives that encourage doctors to prescribe the most expensive drugs.
Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo

“The pharmaceutical drug market is in bad health — getting sicker — and we have a prescription for it,” Lembo said. “In a divided country, when we’re desperate to find common ground, virtually everyone can agree that prescription drug costs are out of control and must be fixed.”

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, House chair of the Public Health Committee, gave an early endorsement of Lembo’s initiative.

“There should be some relationship between the cost necessary to bring a drug to market and what they charge (consumers) for it,” Steinberg said. “This is a sensible way for us to go forward.”

Lembo said the legislation still is being developed, adding that he also would consult with Attorney General George Jepsen’s office regarding what types of sanctions Connecticut might impose against drug companies that can’t justify sharp price increases.

Lembo was part of a working group of the National Academy for State Health Policy that developed a series of policy options for states to address drug prices. Increasing price transparency was among the group’s suggestions.

“While not a complete panacea, these efforts can give states critical information for more effective decision-making, and it can provide the data needed to implement other strategies,” the group’s report said.

The comptroller also said Tuesday that, “There’s been an erosion over the last two decades” of federal regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, and states have no choice but to develop whatever controls they can.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, House chairman of the Public Health Committee

“It’s very clear that the federal government will not take action,” Steinberg said.

President Trump excoriated the pharmaceutical industry in his first press conference after being elected, saying drug companies were “getting away with murder” because of their prices.

Polling indicates that prescription drug prices are a major concern among the public. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed in a September poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation said drug costs were unreasonable, although the majority of those who take medication said it was easy for them to pay for their medication.

The idea of getting drug companies to disclose more information on how they set prices was widely popular, according to the poll – 86 percent favored it. Less popular was the idea of encouraging people to buy lower-cost medications by requiring them to pay a higher share of the cost if they selected a similar drug with higher costs. Only 42 percent of survey respondents favored it.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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