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Bill aims to increase drug-price transparency for Tennessee patients

Main Street Clarksville

Some state lawmakers want stricter regulations to ensure Tennesseans have access to affordable prescription drugs.

Senate Bill 1617 would spotlight the role of pharmacy-benefit managers, the so-called "middlemen" who negotiate prices between drug makers, pharmacies and health insurers. The bill would prevent those managers from artificially inflating drug costs for health plans.

At Tennessee Oncology, Dr. Stephen Schleicher, president of the Tennessee Oncology Practice Society, said some cancer patients wait weeks to get medications, with higher out-of-pocket costs. He said PBMs wield a huge amount of power, and prescribers have little control in the process.

"And as this system has worsened and pharmacy benefit managers gain control, costs go up for patients," he said. "These PBMs dictate where the patients can get their drugs, often causing big gaps in communication between the pharmacists and the oncology provider, when that communication is so important."

The bill also would prevent PBMs from interfering with a patient's right to choose their pharmacy and would require fair reimbursement for health-care providers in rural and low-income areas. It's currently in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.


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