Virginia Governor Vetoes Bill for Lower Prescription Drug Costs

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Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed bills HB570 and SB274 that would have allowed the state to establish its first Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia vetoed a record number of General Assembly bills this week, 2 of which would have allowed for the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) to control prescription drug prices within the state.

State Capitol of Virginia | image credit: Zack Frank / stock.adobe.com

State Capitol of Virginia | image credit: Zack Frank / stock.adobe.com

What’s the Issue?

The bills, HB570 and SB274, would have established Virginia’s PDAB, a government entity that would have had the ability to place price caps on manufacturers’ prescription drugs.1

  • Maryland was the first state to establish a PDAB in 2019, and since then, 7 other states have created their own.2
  • Youngkin’s reasoning behind the vetoes was that prescription drug accessibility would be solely based on pricing rather than the expert advice from medical professionals and the unique needs of individual patients.1
  • This marks the 153rd vetoed bill for Governor Youngkin in this year’s General Assembly session, deeming him “Mr. Veto,” according to News Leader.1

Why it Matters

Citizens of Virginia have been paying higher prices for prescription drugs than the national average. The establishment of a PDAB would have curbed rising drug costs within the state.

  • Virginians spent 36% more per person on prescription drugs than the 2020 national average.1
  • Prescription drugs saw a 6.6% increase in costs from 2015 to 2020 and Virginians are paying $1500 a year compared to the annual national average of $1100.1
  • About 75% of Virginian voters were in favor of establishing a state-ran PDAB, with 85% of Democrats, 71% of Republicans, and 70% of Independents favoring bills HB570 and SB274.1

Expert Commentary

  • “I am extremely disappointed that the Governor vetoed the Prescription Drug Affordability Board Bill. The end results of this bill would have been beneficial to all Virginians and kept drug manufacturers from price gouging our residents. Clearly he is out of touch with the needs of working Virginians and his veto of this bill shows it,” said Senator Angelia Williams Graves, D-Virginia.2
  • “Virginians across the state have made very clear that they expected action to address the unaffordable costs of life-saving medication, and they overwhelmingly support the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. General Assembly members in both parties answered the call, but today’s veto is a step backward to helping many people afford their cost of living — and their cost of staying alive,” Jim Dau, AARP Virginia State Director, said in a statement.1
  • “Governor Youngkin embraces policies that make medication available and affordable for Virginians, that’s why he signed a bill that provides cost-saving transparency and regulations to the pharmaceutical industry and allows state government to study a plan to import lower-cost prescriptions for Virginians. He rejected a proposal to establish a government price-control board because this policy is not only unproven to lower drug prices it would potentially restrict the access and creation of needed medications and life-saving treatments for families across the Commonwealth,” Christian Martinez, Governor Youngkin’s Press Secretary, said in a statement.2

In Depth Insights

Opposers of bills HB570 and SB274 claim that drug manufacturers are not to blame for rising costs of prescriptions. Rather, they argue, it’s pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who are taking money out of patients’ pockets.2 Supporting his reasoning for the vetoes, Youngkin claims that the creation of a PDAB would produce “unintended consequences.”1

  • PBMs negotiate drug prices on behalf of insurance companies, acting as intermediaries that increase profits for themselves, manufacturers, and insurance companies.3
  • “It should not cost someone their rent money to get medication. It really shouldn’t,” continued Senator Graves.2
  • “The high cost of health care affects everyone, and it hits Black and Latino communities the hardest. While I had hoped the Governor would understand the gravity of this issue, he clearly does not,” said Gaylene Kanoyton, Region One Vice President of the Virginia NAACP.2

Extra Reading

For more on Governor Youngkin’s recent vetoes, check out these articles.

References
1. Bayer E. Republican governor vetoes bill aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for Virginians. The News Leader. Published April 9, 2024. https://www.newsleader.com/story/news/politics/2024/04/09/virginia-gov-youngkin-vetoes-bill-aimed-at-lowering-drug-costs/73260188007/?utm_source=MarketingCloud&
2. Berglund M. Gov. Youngkin vetoes prescription drug affordability bill hours before deadline. 13newsnow.com. Published April 8, 2024. https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/gov-youngkin-vetoes-prescription-drug-affordability-bill-hours-before-deadline/291-6fee03d3-1aaf-4138-b813-4bcb5963da5c
3. Mattingly TJ, Hyman DA, Bai G. Pharmacy Benefit Managers: History, Business Practices, Economics, and Policy. JAMA Health Forum. 2023;4(11):e233804. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2023.3804
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