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Commonwealth Council for Aging Recommends Prescription Drug Affordability Board in Virginia

The Virginia Commonwealth Council on Aging recently announced its support for the establishment of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) in the 2023 legislative session. The Commonwealth Council for Aging, a state government advisory board, examines the needs of older Virginians and their caregivers and ways in which Virginia’s government can most effectively and efficiently assist in meeting those needs. 

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A PDAB would act as a watchdog to establish fair costs for everyday medications, ensuring that fewer people in the Commonwealth will be forced to choose between their health and basic necessities such as rent and groceries. The PDAB works in a similar fashion to the state’s regular review of, and rate-setting for, utilities. The board would set Upper Payment Limits (UPLs) to establish fair and reasonable charges for specific medication among state licensed entities. 

“In 2017, 23% of Virginians stopped taking medications as prescribed due to cost. Between 2015 and 2019, the average increase in the annual cost of prescription drugs rose by 26.3%, while the average income in Virginia increased by only 16.7%,” the Commonwealth Council for Aging wrote in its 2023 legislative agenda on Sept. 28.“This proposal would establish the Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board to protect Virginia residents, state and local governments, commercial health plans, health care providers, pharmacies licensed in the Commonwealth, and other stakeholders from the high costs of prescription drug products.”

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) introduced a bill last session to establish a PDAB, a small, independent group of health care experts that would evaluate the affordability of a select number of highly expensive prescription medicines and would set reasonable payment rates to protect consumers from harmful costs. A Mason-Dixon poll earlier this year showed that 82% of Virginians – including wide bipartisan majorities – support the establishment of a PDAB, and 56% of Virginians have personally felt the effect of the rising cost of medicine.

“Too many older Virginians are forced to cut back or completely stop taking medications they need simply because of cost,” said Jim Dau, State Director of AARP Virginia. “The Council’s support for a prescription drug affordability board is a message to lawmakers that something can – and must – be done to help.”

If a PDAB bill is passed in 2023, Virginia will join a number of other states that have passed Prescription Drug Affordability Boards in recent years. In 2019, Maryland became the first state to pass such a board, with strong bipartisan support.

“Many Virginians – especially older Virginians – are not able to afford the medication they desperately need to survive,” says Rhena Hicks, Executive Director of Freedom Virginia. “The Commonwealth Council on Aging’s endorsement of this effort adds to the growing momentum behind a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to curb the high cost of medication. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life or death for some people in Virginia. Because life-saving medicine doesn’t work if you can’t afford it.”

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