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November 18, 2017

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Nevada forces drugmakers to reveal insulin pricing, profits

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Mick Akers

Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks before signing Senate Bill 539, which requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list prices they set and profits they make on insulin, on June 15, 2017, at the opening of the Culinary Health Center in Las Vegas.

After a long road to passage, Senate Bill 539, which creates transparency in prescription drugs used to treat diabetes, was signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday.

Sandoval vetoed the original bill, in what he called a difficult decision, because of a clause that would have mandated drug makers to provide public notice 90 days ahead of any changes in insulin prices.

“That could actually increase prices because they’re not going to disclose their lowest price — they’ll disclose their higher price,” Sandoval said at the Culinary Health Center’s grand opening, where he signed the bill. “Then some of the providers may hold onto those drugs until the prices increase, which could create a drug shortage.”

The initial veto weighed heavily on Sandoval, he said, noting that his grandfather had diabetes. Sandoval said he saw the effects the disease had on his grandfather before he died.

“I knew the bill could be better,” he said. “It’s my responsibility as a governor to make sure we’re adopting the best possible policy that we can. When you’re seeking transparency on the entire supply chain, you don’t want that transparency just on one piece. You want it as far as it can go, and that’s why I vetoed the bill.”

Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, the original bill’s sponsor, credited the passage of the revised bill, the first of its kind in the U.S., to those who told legislators about their experiences with diabetes.

“This bill would not have happened it were not for all of you being brave enough and having the courage to tell your stories and highlight how devastating and how difficult this disease can be,” Cancela said. “This bill is really by you and for you.”

Sandoval said he was pleased to sign SB539, calling it one of the most important bills of the session and a model for other states.

“This (SB539) was a bill that was very hard fought and debated in the legislative section and very meaningful for diabetes patients,” he said. "It’s going to be a model, I’m told, for the rest of the country and something that is going to be replicated in other states.”

Discussion on the bill was ongoing until Sandoval signed the bill at 12:19 p.m. Opponents said trade secrets, necessary to manufacturers’ success, would no longer be protected.

The threat of legal action lingers, but Sandoval said deleting the three-month disclosure period for price increases significantly lowered that risk.

Senate Bill 325

Sandoval also signed Senate Bill 325 into law, expanding Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits to immigrant children who have been in the U.S. less than five years.

Nevada was one of 10 states in the U.S. that had yet to enact a similar law. Federal regulations state that an immigrant has to wait for five years from the day they enter the U.S. to obtain the health benefits, and Sandoval was happy to be a part of that.

“It makes me proud as a governor to be able to serve the Nevada family and make sure everybody is taken care of instead of having to wait five years,” he said. “This is another important step in our state to make sure that the whole Nevada family is taken care of.

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