‘LaPolitics’: Prescription pricing could get hot; John Georges switches parties again

    PhRMA has invested heavily in this year’s regular session, according to several sources, by hiring a squad of skilled lobbyists and attorneys. The team in place is now engaging on a set of bills that would create new layers of disclosure in regard to drug pricing in Louisiana, among other regulations.

    The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has serious concerns about Senate Bill 59 by Senate Health and Welfare Chair Fred Mills, R-Parks, and House Bill 436 by House Insurance Chair Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge. The bills represent the top legislative priority—in terms of playing defense—for PhRMA in the state this year.

    Both of the bills, as originally introduced, would require that average wholesale drug prices be disclosed to prescribing physicians and others, although opponents argue it’s the prescription co-pay that really matters.

    Talbot’s bill would likewise subject violators to unfair trade practices. (Mill’s proposal did the same, but amendments attached this week alleviate that particular concern for opponents.)

    Out of the two, Talbot’s bill has a further reach and calls for a Prescription Drug Review Committee to be created within the Insurance Department. That committee would be charged with getting to the bottom of what is driving the costs of prescriptions. The bill would also place this “legislative finding” into law: “The Legislature of Louisiana hereby finds that the costs of prescription drugs have been increasing dramatically without any attributed reason.” That’s a proposed finding that opponents are countering by offering lawmakers stacks of literature to the contrary.

    “All we want to do is set up some level of transparency,” said Talbot, who added that his bill could possibly be scheduled over the next week or so.

    Mills said he is working with a variety of stakeholders to sharpen the focus of his SB 59. That proposal will get its first floor hearing next week.

    Opponents are urging the bill authors to instead take a closer look at what’s in place in Florida, which is a state-created website that details the top 300 drugs and their retail prices by county. Some business interests share the same concerns as PhRMA about the bills, particularly when it comes to the addition of a new regulatory framework, which they argue could lead to unnecessary litigation.

    —New Orleans businessman John Georges is now (again) a Republican. That has state GOP leaders talking and speculating, with many of them pleased to welcome the former candidate and his resources into the fold. “I switched a couple of months ago,” Georges said in an interview last week. “It was for personal reasons, not political or business.” He was actually a Republican for 29 years before his interest in public service prompted a run for governor as a nonaffiliated candidate and a more recent bid for New Orleans mayor as a Democrat. Georges, who orchestrated the landmark purchase of The Advocate, also expanded his newspaper footprint recently. That’s when his company, Georges Media, acquired The St. Tammany Farmer, one of the state’s oldest newspapers.

    —They said it: “We run out of money faster than we run out of needs.” —DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, commenting on the state’s transportation funding

    —Jeremy Alford

    Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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