Costly prescription drugs could become available to Washingtonians in the form of far less expensive generic products, under legislation passed today out of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee.

“Generics are a cheaper alternative to many name-brand drugs but just as safe and effective,” Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), said. “This is a major step to reduce the unnecessarily high cost of drugs.”

Senate Bill 5203, sponsored by Van De Wege, would authorize the state Health Care Authority (HCA) to partner with other states, state agencies and non-profit entities to produce, distribute or purchase generic drugs and would require state-purchased health insurance programs to procure generic drugs through the partnership.

The legislation specifies that the drugs must be produced or distributed by a drug company or generic drug manufacturer registered with the United States Food and Drug Administration, and requires that any HCA partnership result in savings to public and private purchasers and consumers. In addition, local governments, private entities, health carriers and others would be allowed to purchase generic drugs from the HCA as availability allows.

“We pay way more for medication than we need to, and there’s no justification for it,” Van De Wege said. “As just one example, insulin has been around for nearly 100 years, but instead of getting less expensive, prices keep going up at a rate higher than inflation.”

Madison Johnson, who must take insulin because of diabetes, testified during a committee hearing Friday on SB 5203 that the cost of her insulin alone could exceed $1,200 a month.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed my job and health insurance at risk, and I fear losing access to the medication and diabetes supplies I need to live,” Johnson said. “No one should have to worry about how to obtain the medication they need to survive.”