Drugging the system

In a Jan. 25 report for the Nevada Independent, journalist Megan Messerly tracked “campaign contributions” from the pharmaceutical industry since the Nevada Legislature enacted legislation giving consumers more information on their insulin pricing (“Healthy legislature,” RN&R, June 15, 2017). The measure, vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, was subsequently attached to another bill and passed that way.

The measure requires insulin makers that raise prices to disclose information about their costs and any rebates; requires drugmaker sales reps to register with the state and provide information on their activities; requires nonprofits to disclose any subsidies from drug companies or other health industry sources, and numerous other provisions.

The strict legislation so alarmed the industry that a dozen lobbyists were dumped into Nevada to do their thing. Business Insider reported, “Nevada is one of 23 states with proposed legislation to take on the rising cost of prescription drugs. But unlike others that focus on drug prices in a general sense, the hybrid bill focuses on two specific groups of drugs that are used to treat diabetes: insulin and biguanides. It’s the latest milestone in government actions at the local, state, and national levels that attempt to change the way we spend money on prescription drugs.”

Messerly reports that after the bill passed, the industry pulled its campaign money from all Democrats but four—and those four all hold leadership posts and are thus difficult to ignore.

“Republicans received 67 percent of the industry’s contributions, while the remaining 32 percent went toward funding the industry’s opposition … to the insulin pricing transparency bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela in 2017,” Messerly reported. In the previous year, she wrote, 19 Democrats received campaign funds.