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Bill allowing pharmacists to tell customers about cheaper drugs sails out of Senate committee

Sen. Ronnie Johns testifies about SB 131. (Source: Sabrina Wilson, FOX 8) Sen. Ronnie Johns testifies about SB 131. (Source: Sabrina Wilson, FOX 8)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) -

Legislation that aims to give pharmacists in Louisiana more flexibility to inform customers about cheaper prescription drugs will be considered by the full state Senate.

On Wednesday afternoon, SB 131 made it out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

"To allow a pharmacist to be able to sell a prescription drug to one of their customers in certain situations where they may be able to offer them a cheaper price than what their insurance co-pay is,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles.

A pharmacist showed up to speak in favor of the legislation.

Though Johns’ bill was filed two months ago, the Senate vote came just days after a Lee Zurik investigation aired on FOX 8 News. It detailed how patients with health insurance coverage paid more for prescriptions with their co-pays than the drugs actually cost.

"They may have a $50 co-pay on an insurance policy, there may be a possibility of them being able to sell that drug to them at a little cheaper prices,” Johns said.

"I think it's a consumer-friendly bill,” said Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans.

Bishop said he knows how co-pays can exceed the cost of certain drugs, and he applauds Johns for bringing the bill to state lawmakers.

"I think whenever we can save some money for our consumers, it's actually something worthwhile,” said Bishop.

But the legislation in its present forms concerns some in the insurance industry.

"Other states and other corporations are watching Louisiana, because if they enter into a contract for whatever reason and they know anyone can go to the legislature and void that contract or find something in the contract that they don't agree with, so that's a major concern,” said Jeff Drozda, of the Louisiana Association of Health Plans.

Right now, language in the proposed law calls for an effective date of Aug. 1 of this year, but Johns believes that it will have to be amended because of some existing contracts.

"We may have to go back and look at some additional language because there are legal contracts that have already been signed by pharmacists with insurance companies, and we may have to deal with the contract, dates in those contracts,” he said.

And Johns denies being pressured by the insurance industry.

"That's totally false. I was trying to work a compromise between both sides to make a better piece of legislation and to take care of those consumers out there,” he said.

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