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Key California health care players are divided over whether the state should impose new regulations on pharmaceutical middlemen to bring down spiraling drug prices in the largest market in the nation.

Those middlemen, the pharmacy benefit managers, came under the microscope Tuesday at “Corrective Action: How to address prescription drug costs,” a POLITICO Live event. And according to the report by Politico “It was somewhat hostile territory for the industry, featuring its chief antagonist in Sacramento: State Sen. Scott Wiener.”

Wiener has authored legislation, Senate Bill 966, that would impose new rules on PBMs, represented on the panel by industry advocate Caitlin Berry.

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy organization, supported the goal of the legislation though not its specifics while a third panelist, UC Law San Francisco professor Robin Feldman argued that California can in fact act more boldly to bring down drug prices in the state.

Here are five takeaways from the event:

1) A chief antagonist of pharmacy benefit managers does not want to eliminate them. Wiener did not go as far as others nationally who seek to abolish the middlemen who negotiate with manufacturers over drug prices. He’s carrying legislation that would, among other things, require PBMs to be licensed with the California State Board of Pharmacy and to pass down drug rebates to consumers. The proposal is expected to dominate health care regulation discussions in Sacramento this legislative year.

Caitlin Berry, a senior principal with Prime Therapeutics, opposes the bill and argued her industry bolsters competition through negotiations and actually helps limit prices. “We build networks that stoke competition in between pharmacies to capture business from the insurance members in order to lower costs for the payer,” she said.

2) States have been limited in their ability to regulate the drug industry. That could be changing. UC Law San Francisco professor Robin Feldman argued a 2023 Supreme Court ruling allowing California to set rules for pork ranchers has reframed the Constitution’s Commerce Clause in a way that would allow states to regulate pharmaceuticals, too.

3) A group representing consumers didn’t back one proposed regulation of PBMs.Wiener’s SB 966 does not yet have the approval of Health Access California. Anthony Wright, it’s executive director said “we agree that there should be regulation of the industry,” but did not sound sure of which entity should license PBMs.

4) Drug pricing remains the elephant in the room. Pharmaceutical prices have risen faster than inflation, prompting finger-pointing between industry players and skeptics in government over who’s to blame.

5) Artificial intelligence could bring down drug costs. Wiener pointed to an antibiotic developed by artificial intelligence as evidence that the technology presents major promise for drug development. And using AI to help design treatment could help bring down the costs of doing so, including speeding the designing of generics, said Feldman.