Cory Booker Shines Light on Pharma’s Efforts to Manipulate Medicaid Drug Coverage Decisions
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Tuesday introduced a bill to shine a light on certain tactics drugmakers employ to profit off of state Medicaid programs by influencing their drug coverage decisions. The bill follows an investigation over the summer that found that drug makers swarm state Medicaid board meetings when their drugs are under consideration and have given payments and perks to doctors serving on those boards, like free meals and consulting opportunities. Booker called the practices disturbing. “These tactics are all in the pursuit of one goal – making themselves more money,” Booker said. Under current law, drug companies are required to disclose any payments or other perks of value made to physicians and certain other providers. But these disclosure requirements don’t apply to many individuals who serve on the review boards, including pharmacists, who by law must make up at least one-third of the membership of a state’s board. Drug companies have a lucrative financial interest in influencing which drugs are included on a state’s preferred list under Medicaid since Medicaid covers roughly 76 million people, or nearly one out of every four Americans. These efforts are often at odds with state efforts to keep costs low. The Medicaid Drug Decisions Transparency Act would expand the payment reporting requirements to include pharmacists as well as individuals who serve on a state drug use review board and require states to clearly publish a list of state Medicaid drug use review board members. The measure would also increase financial penalties for drug makers that fail to comply with the reporting requirements.