Policy & Research


ICYMI: Virtual Event — Prescriptions for Change (September 17, 2020)

The Price of Drugs and State Cost Control Strategies

By Kari M. Bruffett, Peter F. H. Barstad, Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S. | September 17, 2020

ICYMI: Virtual Event — Prescriptions for Change (September 17, 2020)


In 1980, prescription drug spending totaled $12 billion, which was less than five percent of U.S. national health expenditures. Forty years later, prescription drugs are projected to account for nearly $360 billion, about nine percent of total national health expenditures. How does the complex pricing and distribution system work?  What can state governments do to control prescription drug costs? Learn more in our latest issue brief, which looks at the expanding set of policy levers states can access to control the costs of prescription drugs.

Key Points from the brief include:

  • State legislatures across the country have passed 164 laws in the past two years specifically targeting prescription drug pricing, payment or costs.
  • In 2020, six such bills were introduced in the Kansas Legislature, focused on regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), limiting out-of-pocket costs for insulin, and creating a drug importation program. However, none of the bills were enacted into law.
  • While the federal government plays a lead role in approving drugs, protecting intellectual property and mandating discounts, states have an expanding set of policy levers they can access to control costs, including leveraging the purchasing power of state Medicaid programs.
  • While laws aimed at increasing transparency in prescription drug pricing have been gaining momentum, no state currently has laws requiring transparency across the entire supply chain, from manufacturers, to wholesalers, pharmacies, PBMs and health plans.

Virtual Event – Prescriptions for Change: Navigating the Complex System of Drug Prices

How does the maze of retail prescription drug pricing and distribution work in the United States? What are the implications for consumers and payers attempting to navigate it? On Sept. 17, 2020, KHI held a virtual event to explore the issues in the brief and help shed light on the complex system and the options state policymakers across the country are using to rein in costs.

A recording of the convening, as well as documents from the virtual event, are below.

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.