General Assembly doesn't need to be involved in generic drug pricing, Reick says
The price of prescription drugs is not the General Assembly’s business, according to Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock).
“This is an issue that the (Food and Drug Administration) needs to do in order to move drugs faster from off-patent to generic form,” Reick said of price-gauging piece of Democrat-backed legislation that had almost a dozen Republican lawmakers angry and amused at the proposal during the April 19 House floor debate
Reick said HB4900, sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), which would create the Illinois Generic Drug Pricing Fairness Act, would mandate generic drug manufacturers not to participate in price gouging. If they do, the attorney general would have authority to subpoena and prosecute, attempts to cut out capitalism.
Beginning a heated debate, which Majority House Leader Barbara Currie (D-Chicago) had to strictly supervise for time purposes, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) questioned why the bill was on the floor, assuming it was going to stay in committee for further discussion. Guzzardi told him it passed, leaving Breen to question what other states the measure has been passed in.
“Just one, Maryland, and we are proud to follow in their footsteps,” Guzzardi said.
“I think you are the first person to say, ‘We are proud to follow in Maryland's footsteps,' since the founding of the country,” Breen said.
Breaking down how the bill that would “trigger” severe penalty for a 30 percent increase, which equates to $7 to $10, Breen said that attacking the company with the attorney general would put needed business in the state on the defense.
The probe would be warranted, said Guizzardi, adding the company would have a chance to explain the price increase.
“It is a core principle of the free market that sometimes the costs get driven down, and on occasion they get driven up, but in the long run they all go down, but not if you control the prices in the midst of that market shakeout process,” Breen said.
Guzzardi countered, saying if Breen’s fundamental position is that a business should be allowed to engage in price gauging because it is a free-market principle, then the two would never agree.
Rep. Steven Andersson (R-Geneva) found the bill's title interesting, pointing out Guzzardi’s use of acrostics, the composition of certain letters set up to form a word or phrase.
After reading the title: The Pharmaceutical and Health Ability Restrictions on Manufactures A-Moral Behavior through Reasonable Oversight Act, Anderson asked Guzzardi what the title would spell.
“By sheer coincidence, it would spell the word PHARMA BRO,” Guzzardi said.
Andersson said Guzzardi’s use of acrostics to spell out the nickname of the infamous businessman Martin Shkreli, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for fraudulent drug company hedge funds, was clever.
“Well played representative, well played,” Andersson said.
While Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) pointed out the high cost of litigation drug companies could come against in defending themselves for raising their prices, Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale) said though she understood the sponsor's intentions, she could not agree.
“Not everyone in the United States likes price gauging but at the same time, the issue of government control is extremely important,” Bellock said. “The FDA is involved with this right now and the state of Illinois should not put themselves into that.”
To prove his point, Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) was granted extra time when Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) gave up his five minutes for Demmer, who read a recent Washington Post report that said Maryland’s law against price gauging that was struck down in a federal appeals court and how that should caution other states considering similar legislation.
“Such as state-based efforts aimed at curtailing massive price hikes on generic drugs in states like Louisiana and Illinois,” Demmer said.
Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) kept his opinion short before encouraging a no vote, leaving the debate to conclude with Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), who noted the Maryland case that will unassumingly end up before the Supreme Court.
“Sometimes I think we are playing in the wrong sandbox and something that should be done in D.C. we are trying to do here in Illinois,” Batinick said.
And they did.
HB4900 passed 65-38 and will move to the Senate floor for debate and vote.