The NCSL Blog


By Haley Nicholson

Representative Tom Oliverson (R-Texas) and Delegate Bonnie Cullison (D-Md.) joined staff from the NCSL Washington, D.C. office this week to meet with members of Congress, congressional committee staff, and intergovernmental partners at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Representative Tom Oliverson and Delgate Bonnie Cullison during the fly-in.They discussed what actions states are taking to address prescription drug pricing and transparency. Oliverson and Cullison’s visit also included a briefing for congressional offices, the administration and state and local partner organizations, which allowed the legislators to share their success and challenges in passing prescription drug related legislation.

Both Oliverson and Cullison brought a variety of expertise on prescription drug pricing, transparency, manufacturing and related policy.

They provided insights to NCSL’s federal partners on what has worked in their states but also what they need at the federal level to address the issue of increasing drug prices. Areas of focus for our visiting members included: the reform of federal patent laws to address their impact on driving up costs for biopharmaceutical medications, the abuse of the patent system by drug manufacturers, proposed reform for the FDA orphan drug program, the creation of the first ever prescription drug affordability drug board and surprise billing issues as it connects to prescription drug costs.

Over the past year, Congress and the administration have proposed many ways to address increasing prescription drug prices.

The administration has looked at ways to ensure Americans are not paying more than other countries for the same prescription drugs, how to leverage government programs’ negotiation power when drug prices are set, and allowing pathways for states and drug manufacturers to import prescription drugs from Canada. Congress has also studied these issues and additionally proposed:

  • Establishing set out-of-pocket costs on prescriptions.
  • Requiring drug manufactures to submit information to HHS on increased drug prices.
  • Lowering drug costs in Medicare and Medicaid programs.
  • Ensuring drug manufacturers change their transparency practices when it comes to developing new products.

While some of these proposals have either stalled or been pulled, some are still under consideration. In this state of limbo, states have taken on an active role in directly addressing drug pricing and transparency issues to help their constituents with the burden these costs can bring. The question is, when and if federal partners will follow suit and bolster their efforts?

NCSL Resources:

D.C. Fly-In Overview page

NCSL Blog post on prescription drug costs

NCSL Federal Prescription Drug Policy Recap

NCSL Health and Human Services committee

NCSL's Prescription Drug Policy Resources Center

NCSL's Prescription Drug Database.

NCSL Blog post on prescription drug policy trends 

Haley Nicholson is senior policy director, Health and Human Services, in NCSL's State-Federal Affairs division.

Email Haley.


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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.