Lawmakers are looking into prescription drug pricing

A set of bills moving through the state Legislature’s ongoing regular session would create new layers of disclosure in regard to prescription drug pricing in Louisiana.

The policy push has caught the attention of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents companies that research, develop and market medicines. They’re also companies that are being targeted by via the drug pricing legislation.

As such, PhRMA has invested heavily in the session by hiring a squad of skilled lobbyists and attorneys. The team is voicing serious concerns about SB 59 by Senate Health and Welfare Chair Fred Mills, R-Parks, and HB 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 that 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 last week helped 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 for an initial hearing this week.

Mills said he is working with a variety of stakeholders to sharpen the focus of his SB 59, which will may its first Senate floor vote this week as well.

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 in relation to the two bills, particularly when it comes to the addition of a new regulatory framework, which they argue could lead to unnecessary litigation.

Georges now a RepublicanNew 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 recently. “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 non-affiliated candidate and a more recent bid for New Orleans mayor as a Democrat.

Georges, who orchestrated the landmark purchase of The Advocate newspaper, also expanded his publishing footprint earlier this year.

That’s when his company, Georges Media, acquired The St. Tammany Farmer, one of the state’s oldest newspapers.Equal pay on shaky groundDespite the proposal being a part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ official package, legislation to ban private companies from engaging in “pay secrecy” was soundly rejected last week by the House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.HB 222 by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, would have prohibited employers from taking actions against employees for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing their wages or another employee’s wages. Up against conservative resistance, the bill failed in a 5-9 vote.

The governor’s drive on equal pay, though, found a second life the same afternoon when the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee advanced a somewhat related proposal.

SB 2 by Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, represents a much deeper dive the issue and is also supported by Edwards. The legislation expands the Louisiana Equal Pay Act to include men and a number of different employer groups like local governments and associations. It likewise provides guidelines for related lawsuits.

Before her legislative loss, Moreno received support from a number of speakers, including Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, who said she did not originally believe a state wage gap existed, but after three years of listening to testimony on the subject, her mind was changed.

“I realized it wasn’t just some way to get us to do something to harm business,” Stokes said, adding, “People who are running payroll, they’ve told me, ‘It’s real.’”

Representatives from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the National Federal of Independent Business both argued that there are already federal and state laws that address the objectives of Moreno’s bill. It was a line of attack echoed by many of the conservative members of the House committee.

If Morrell is successful on the Senate side, where similar measures have been advanced in the past, he will still have to face off against the House’s labor committee, which has its own history of shooting down such bills.Political History: A governor in a duel Next month marks the 210th anniversary (June 8, 1807) of Louisiana’s very first governor taking a bullet to the thigh during a high-profile duel.

That’s right. A duel.

Back before jabs were delivered on social media, and countered with letters the editor, early Louisiana politicians had the option of dueling with their enemies — using guns.

Clearly Gov. William CC Claiborne wasn’t quick enough on the draw against Daniel Clark, who had hoped he would become the first governor after Louisiana was transferred from France to the United States.

Clark was the loudest voice of opposition at the time against Claiborne’s policies, and he literally pulled the trigger to get his point across.

In the wake of the duel, Clark entered old age in New Orleans, his career in politics ruined. He died suddenly from a fever on Aug. 16, 1813, but his legacy lived on for many years to follow thanks to a case that’s still being studied today.

Clark’s estate was locked up in the courts for the following six decades due to a daughter who claimed she was the legitimate heir through a secret marriage.

The case uncovered unknown details about a “true-life romance,” according to legal documents, and a U.S. Supreme Court justice who participated in the vast majority of the proceedings called it the “most remarkable case” ever brought before the court.They Said It“We run out of money faster than we run out of needs.” —Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, commenting on the state’s growing infrastructure backlog“Go easy with the acronyms.”—Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, during a complicated discussion about operations at the Louisiana Department of Health

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