Over the past 40 years, the number of people filling prescriptions has increased steadily. Currently, almost 50 percent of Americans use at least one prescription drug daily. In 2016, over 2.6 million prescriptions were filled in Florida’s retail pharmacies. Not only is the number of prescriptions increasing but the cost of medications is on the rise. From June 2015 to May 2016, average drug prices have increased nearly 10 percent and specialty prescription prices are projected to increase 18.7 percent in 2017. Drugs are big business and spending on prescriptions is a major driver of healthcare costs.
While drug costs are on the rise everywhere, there is a substantial difference in the price of medication between pharmacies. In an attempt to bring more transparency to pharmaceutical costs and to allow residents to shop for the best prices, the Florida Attorney General and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) partnered to create FloridaRX.com, a website that presents the costs of medications by geographic areas. Launched in 2005, FloridaRX.com allows consumers to quickly price compare – and what they find may be surprising. For example, in Miami the price for Advair, a commonly used asthma medication, varies from $271 to $643.
Legislation introduced this session by Senator Bean (SB 888) and Representative Yarborough (HB 589) aims to increase the number of medications with pricing information on FloridaRX.com from 150 to 300 medications. These bills have sailed through subcommittees with no opposition, landing in the Appropriation Committees. While the Appropriation Committees have no more meetings scheduled, it is conceivable that the Rules Committee will take up the bill or additional Appropriation Committee meetings will be scheduled. Florida TaxWatch encourages our legislators to carefully consider this expansion. Transparency in pharmaceutical pricing has the potential to save Floridians money while helping to control the rising cost of care via competition.