California OKs bill to flex power on prescription drugs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Monday passed a bill to use the most populous state's market power to lower the cost and increase the availability of prescription drugs for its nearly 40 million residents, with supporters citing the coronavirus pandemic as proof that more is needed to reduce shortages in drugs and other medical supplies.

The state Legislature approved a measure that would require the California Health and Human Services Agency to create partnerships designed to increase competition, lower prices and reduce shortages for generic prescription drugs.

However, the bill stops short of Gov. Gavin Newsom's January budget proposal for the state to create its own generic label.

Lawmakers acted as they took up dozens of bills while racing to complete their work before adjourning for the year.

The state Senate approved the bill 32-7 late Monday night, sending the bill to the Democratic governor for his signature. In January, Newsom said the goal is to “take the power out of the hands of greedy pharmaceutical companies.”

Democratic Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician, cited shortages spurred by the coronavirus pandemic as one rationale for his bill.

“As drugs are identified as effective treatments for COVID-19 patients, it is likely that there will be supply issues for those drugs as well,” he said in a legislative analysis.

The pandemic “brought to light glaring gaps in supplies of essential, lifesaving drugs, and medical equipment and supplies,” Pan wrote.

Assemblyman Jim Wood, also a Democrat, said the bill “will also help prepare the state for the next pandemic.”

There was no formal opposition.

___

The bill is SB852.