Representative Christine P. Barber, of Somerville and Medford, testified recently in support of a bill she filed to make prescription drugs more affordable to consumers by increasing the transparency and accountability of prescription drug costs.
“Prescription drugs cure disease, manage chronic illness, and not only improve one’s quality of life but are life-saving for many patients. Yet, prescription drugs do not work if they are unaffordable. The goal of our bill is to make prescription drugs affordable and accessible by increasing transparency on pricing and holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable,” said Representative Christine Barber.
The rising price of prescription drugs places a significant burden on families’ budgets as well as state spending. Actual costs of prescriptions are obscured by a complex and opaque system of pharmacy benefit manager middlemen and a lack of drug company reporting on production, marketing expenses, and profits. There is currently no oversight to ensure that drugs are affordable to those who need them.
Rep. Barber recently filed H.1133, An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability to make pharmaceutical pricing more transparent, help lower the cost of unreasonably high-cost drugs, and strengthen MassHealth’s tools to negotiate lower prices. It would regulate pharmacy benefit managers, who earn revenue from rebates when they negotiate with the drug manufacturer, without regard for what the consumer is paying. The bill would also improve pharmacists’ ability to let patients know if purchasing a drug at retail price without insurance would be cheaper.
Several patients testified at the hearing about difficulties they had in affording their medications. One woman spoke about the challenges she faced affording her medication for muscular dystrophy and heart failure. Although the medication significantly improved her quality of life, she went into debt after paying $150 per month. After 5 months, her copay increased to $225 per month, and she could no longer afford the drug and had to discontinue use. A young adult with type 1 diabetes described rationing insulin and soliciting donations online from strangers to be able to afford the long-acting insulin that she needs to survive.
Rep. Barber’s bill is supported by a growing coalition of organizations—that list includes Health Care For All, Boston Center for Independent Living, Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Senior Action Council, Disability Policy Consortium, MASSPIRG, 1199SEIU, Children’s Mental Health Campaign, Health Law Advocates, Atrius Health, and Massachusetts Association for Mental Health.
Please contact Rep. Barber’s office (617-722-2220 or Christine.Barber@mahouse.gov) to get involved with the campaign or share your story about challenges affording prescription drugs.