Proposed Ordinance To Keep Close Watch On Rising Drug Prices In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — Should you have to choose between buying medication or paying your mortgage?

It’s an all too common scenario because of the rising cost of prescription drugs.

CBS 2’S Roseanne Tellez reports on one Chicago Alderman’s efforts to stop what he calls “price gouging.”

Aldermen Edward M. Burke held Tuesday a hearing on the proposed “Chicago Drug Pricing Transparency Ordinance” to mandate that pharmaceutical manufacturers whose drugs are sold in Chicago must disclose price hikes 90 days in advance if those increases fall into one of a series of categories.

Increases like the 500 percent jump in the cost of Epipens, the life-saving drug needed for severe allergic reactions. Why?

“I’ll submit to you very simple assessment – greed,” said Dr. Rena Conti, University of Chicago Department of Public Health.

The Chicago City Council Finance Committee heard testimony on Tuesday about huge increases in the cost of pharmaceuticals, as they consider an ordinance on pricing transparency.

“Hopefully with this type of transparency we will both name and shame manufacturers in order to tame their prices, but also provide much more information so people can be better prepared,” Dr. Rena Conti said.

Some said that not all pharmaceutical companies are bad actors.

“When you price control the way that this ordinance is proposed to do, it doesn’t allow for the reinvestment of those profits and money to create and develop other life-saving machines,” said Michael Reever, Chamber of Commerce.

Committee Chairman Ed Burke said jacking up the cost of medicine, “so that CEOs can make staggering amounts of money – $35 million a year is something that should not exist in this great nation.”

Others said those high costs do not exist in other nations.

“I have family who are paying substantially less in different countries of the world. They play substantially less for the same medicine that has the same effects,” said Victor Candiotti.

Is it price gouging? Burke cited one analysis showing prices up 76 percent for some 30 drugs over a four-year period.

His proposal would require advance notice of some of those hikes and establish a price review board.

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