As states target high drug prices, pharma targets state lawmakers

The task of reining in drug prices is increasingly moving to the states — and so is pharma lobbying muscle.

It was expected to be a perfunctory statehouse meeting — three lobbyists and a legislator discussing a proposal to educate Louisiana doctors about the price of drugs they prescribe.

The bill seemed like a no-brainer in a country where even decades-old medicines can cost thousands and consumers are urged to make smart choices in buying health care. The legislation simply required pharmaceutical sales reps promoting medicines at doctors’ offices to also reveal a price.

No one expected the industry scrum that materialized.

About 10 pharma lobbyists flooded the room in Baton Rouge’s art deco state Capitol, some of them hired guns — lobbyists who’d never represented drug companies before, remembers Jeff Drozda, an insurance lobbyist at the 2016 meeting.

“The message was: We’re going to bring everything at you against these bills,” he said.

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