California State Senate Uses Students’ Research for Oversight Hearing

On March 20, 2017, UC Hastings students sat in on an Oversight Hearing of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development in Sacramento. The Committee utilized their paper on Pharmacy Benefit Managers as the background paper for the informational hearing.

Throughout the Fall 2016 semester, visiting 2L Jonathan Perrone, 2L Kristian Zanis, and 2L Sammy Chang worked on behalf of the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development and Senior Consultant Sarah Huchel ’05 in the Public Law and Policy Workgroup. The topic of the paper focused on an often-overlooked actor in the prescription-drug supply chain: the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (“PBM”). “The three students outdid themselves over the course of the term with creative and diligent research, culminating in a sterling report that withstood intense scrutiny from well-financed industry groups and other stakeholders,” observed Professor Steven Bonorris.

The students spent most of last semester conducting interviews with industry stakeholders, including lobbyists and government officials, and furiously researching PBMs in order to illuminate a “complex market that bears numerous players, complicated relationships, and opaque practices.” Their paper was published online on the Committee’s website and was well received by Committee members. It was even cited by a representative of the California Pharmacists Association during testimony.

“We enjoyed the real-world experience. The course provides a great opportunity for anyone interested in public policy and government law,” said 2L Jonathan Perrone. The effects of the hearing are unknown thus far, but it appears that industry players (for example, CVS Caremark, ExpressScripts, and Optum RX who, together, have a market cap of over $100 billion) are following anxiously. Two Assembly bills attempting to regulate PBMs have been introduced this legislative session.