ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Senate on Monday, April 20, approved a proposal to require prescription drug manufacturers to explain why they hiked prices of their drugs.

The move aimed at preventing companies from increasing prices with little or no reason comes after more than a year of negotiation between a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers, patient advocacy groups, doctors, pharmacists, drug manufacturers and others. The bill moves next to the Minnesota House of Representatives for consideration after the Senate approved it on a 63-2 vote.

Under the bill, drug manufacturers that priced prescriptions drugs at more than $100 for a 30-day supply, raised a brand name drug price by more than 10% in a 12-month period or increases the price of a generic drug by 50% or more during a 12-month period would be required to report the increase to the Minnesota Department of Health and explain what drove the increase. That information would then be made public and companies that failed to provide the information in a timely manner would be subject to state penalties.

The bill's author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said the proposal didn't go as far as some would've wanted, but it was a bipartisan plan that gained support among various stakeholders. And it was a good first step in making pharmaceutical companies think twice before approving "horrendous" price increases, she said.

"Health care delivery is changing as we speak," Rosen said. "And transparency and accountability is key. And beginning to get the consumer engaged, empowering the consumer is very very important."

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Lawmakers voted down an amendment to allow the attorney general sue companies that issue "unconscionable" price increases for their products and another proposed change that would allow pharmacists to discuss the cost to obtain a prescription drug.

Legislators raised concerns about how the measure could open a door to trade secrets and could adversely impact drug rebate programs. And others said it didn't go far enough to bring down the price of prescription drugs.

“I think this bill is a small step forward but it doesn’t go far enough for transparency,” Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, said. "It's a tiny drop of what we have to do to get prices under control."