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California's Preferential Bulk Price For Hepatitis-C Drugs Kept Secret

The good news is that California's Department of General Services (DGS) negotiated a bulk discount price for the large quantities of pegylated interferon it buys for the treatment of Hepatitis-C infected prisoners, and will save the state $1 million on the $5.6 million expended last year. The bad news is that the pricing details are not being disclosed -- not even to curious taxpayers or state legislators.

According to DGS spokesman Matt Bender, the February 28, 2005 contract with Roche (the U.S. division of Swiss drug manufacturer F. Hoffman-LaRoche, Ltd.) was part of California's strategic procurement program that takes advantage of California's massive buying power. The new lower prices became effective April 1, 2005 and apply to the Department of Corrections, the Youth Authority, the Department of Mental Health and the California State University system.

Kathay Feng, director of citizens' oversight group Common Cause, argued that this use of public funds should he disclosed to allow local agencies to secure the same pricing afforded the state. DGS had conducted simultaneous renegotiations with two manufacturers, Roche and Schering-Plough, Inc. Citing irreparable harm," neither would discuss contract terms.

But the truth may yet emerge. The Sacramento Bee and State Senator Jackie Speier sued for disclosure in Sacramento Superior Court under California's Public Records Act.

Source: Sacramento Bee

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