|BOSTON — The following statement was issued by Lucy Westerfield, deputy executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, following the Massachusetts state Senate passage of S 2651, An Act relative to pharmaceutical access, costs, and transparency, to lower drug prices:|
“We applaud the Massachusetts state Senate for passing S 2651 to rein in rising prescription drug costs for Massachusetts patients. Every day, patients are forced to choose between medications they need and paying for groceries. They need relief. This bill will empower the state to review unreasonable drug prices and develop programs to make expensive drugs more affordable for Bay Staters, especially those disproportionately impacted by high drug prices. It’s time for the full legislature to stand up for patients and send S 2651 to Governor Baker’s desk — patients cannot wait any longer.”
MASSACHUSETTS — Patient advocate Karolina Chorvath, who lives with Crohn’s disease, shared her story about living with high drug prices today during a Joint Committee on Health Care Financing hearing, testifying in support of House Bill 729 and Senate Bill 771. This legislation expands the authority of the Health Policy Commission to allow it to review the prices of expensive drugs and engage with drug corporations to lower the costs of medications that are deemed unreasonable or excessive.
To manage her Crohn’s disease and arthritis, Chorvath takes Stelara, which costs between $30,000 and $70,000 a year. She also takes an injectable for severe chronic migraines that costs $300 to $600 per treatment.
“Like so many others, I live at the mercy of drug corporations,” Chorvath, a Boston-based journalist, told the committee. “I already have to deal with the excruciating pain and uncertainty of living with multiple chronic conditions … It is unacceptable to leave any patient wondering if they can afford to live.”
H.729, An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability, and S.771, An Act relative to pharmaceutical access, costs, and transparency, would:
“That is why reforms like those proposed are so important,” Chorvath said. “They take on the high cost of prescription drugs and would bring some relief to patients like me.”
After today’s hearing, the committee will consider whether to report out the bills favorably.
You can watch the recording of the hearing here.
MASSACHUSETTS — Patients For Affordable Drugs Now kicks off a campaign today thanking Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03) and calling on Rep. Jake Auchincloss (MA-04) to support swift passage of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, a package of drug pricing reforms that includes allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices for Bay Staters. The campaign includes digital ads as well as grassroots advocacy for constituents to contact the members in support of H.R. 3. The campaign comes after Big Pharma launched ads loaded with lies, attacking members for supporting the bill.
“Bay Staters need Rep. Auchincloss to follow Rep. Trahan’s lead and push for passage of H.R. 3 to ensure we get affordable medicines we need now and innovation for the future,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “The choice is clear: You either stand with patients for lower prices or with pharma for higher prices. We need lower drug prices now.”
The ad thanking Rep. Trahan for supporting Medicare negotiation will run on digital platforms within MA-03. Digital ads will run in MA-04, urging Rep. Auchincloss to stand with patients and push for passage of H.R. 3.
H.R. 3 was recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives. The chamber passed the bill in the 116th Congress. H.R. 3 is a comprehensive bill that will lower prices, rein in price gouging, and reduce out-of-pocket costs by restoring balance to the U.S. drug pricing system to ensure both innovation and affordability.
The campaign is part of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now’s seven-figure national campaign launching simultaneously in 42 House districts across 22 states and in D.C.
BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker and Massachusetts lawmakers became national leaders in the fight to lower drug prices this week. Lawmakers struck a bipartisan budget deal that grants the state the power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs in the state’s Medicaid program. Under the new program, the state can negotiate lower prices if a drug costs MassHealth $10 million a year or more than $25,000 per patient per year.
“Prescription drug spending in MassHealth has nearly doubled in the last five years, and Massachusetts residents have suffered under relentless price hikes,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “We applaud Governor Baker, the state’s legislature, and consumer groups for taking a bipartisan stand. The budget’s success signals to states across the nation that working together we can bring Big Pharma to the negotiating table and get a better deal for state residents.”
The state’s $43.1 billion budget includes provisions to:
The program is expected to save taxpayers $80 million next year from negotiations with drug corporations. In support of the effort, Patients For Affordable Drugs Now ran a six-figure campaign backing changes to curtail runaway drug pricing. The campaign included:
BOSTON — After drug prices for MassHealth doubled in five years, Governor Charlie Baker and the state legislature are advancing budget proposals that would require drug companies to justify exorbitant prices and allow the state to negotiate drug costs on behalf of patients and taxpayers. In support of this effort, Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, a bipartisan national patient organization, is launching a 6-figure ad campaign to support the budget proposal and give residents tools to contact their legislators in support of these reforms.
“The status quo gives drug companies carte blanche to dip into Massachusetts’ state coffers and patients’ pockets, and it’s time for change,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “Massachusetts residents are suffering under relentless prescription drug price hikes. We support Governor Baker, consumer groups, and the state legislature’s efforts to curtail rising drug prices, and we are excited to give residents the tools they need to take a stand.”
ABOUT THE AD CAMPAIGN
As part of the campaign Patients For Affordable Drugs Now will:
Patients For Affordable Drugs Now has shared drug pricing stories in Massachusetts, sending two patients to testify before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and publishing a raft of patient stories on its website to underscore the urgency of the drug pricing crisis in Massachusetts.
HOW THE BUDGET PROPOSAL WOULD WORK
Governor Baker and the Massachusetts State Senate agree on key provisions to lower drug prices. Their plan would allow MassHealth to negotiate lower drug prices and:
MassBio has tried to water down the budget plan by lobbying to remove any public posting of drug value and weaken enforcement mechanisms. Today’s campaign will push back against the effort by drug corporations to keep prices high.
According to recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 25 percent of Americans say they trust drug corporations to price their products fairly. Nearly one in fourAmericans report difficulty affording their prescription medications.
Patients For Affordable Drugs Now is a bipartisan 501(c)(4) national patient organization focused exclusively on policies to lower drug prices. To maintain its independence, the group does not accept donations from organizations that profit from the development and distribution of prescription drugs.
KEY POINT: “The Senate would give the state’s Health Policy Commission authority to demand information from drug companies that have failed to reach a negotiated price with the state secretary of health and human services…This provision has teeth — unlike the House version which was redrafted at the behest of MassBio, the chief lobbying group for the industry here.“
The state budget is where the rubber meets the road of governing. And this week the real give and take begins between House and Senate budget negotiators not over mere dollars and cents — $42.8 billion is the bottom line in both versions — but about the policies that each branch has defined as critical in the year ahead.
Behind closed doors six legislators will exercise their powers to craft new laws, impose new taxes, and generally set the parameters for how much progress this state will make in the year ahead in such critical issues as education and health care.
Oh sure, at the end of the process the budget for the year that begins July 1 will go back to the full House and Senate for a final vote. But make no mistake, this is where the big decisions are being made. This is the proverbial sausage factory — a boutique operation, but one with the power to impact millions of lives.
Amid the thousands of budget line items and dozens of so-called outside sections — budget riders on policy issues — some stand out as being as critically important as they are contentious.
Prescription drug policies: Here we would urge the Senate side to stick to its well-crafted effort to rein in the prices of a relative handful of high-end drugs that threaten to drive up the cost of the state’s Medicaid program, which already consumes about 40 percent of the entire state budget.
The Senate would give the state’s Health Policy Commission authority to demand information from drug companies that have failed to reach a negotiated price with the state secretary of health and human services.
“If after review of records or documents the commission determines that a drug manufacturer’s pricing of a drug may be unreasonable or excessive, the commission shall hold a public hearing,” the Senate language says. Manufacturers would be required to appear, testify under oath and would face penalties for knowingly obstructing the commission’s efforts. Ultimately the case could be referred to the attorney general under the state’s consumer protection law. Net savings to the state are estimated at $28 million.
In other words, this provision has teeth — unlike the House version which was redrafted at the behest of MassBio, the chief lobbying group for the industry here.
Massachusetts is already far behind in drug regulatory and disclosure efforts long underway in neighboring Connecticut, Vermont and New York. To do nothing this year is to fall even farther behind.
New excise taxes: Here again the Senate budget tackles two critical issues the House choose to ignore. The Senate would impose a 75 percent excise tax on vaping materials — or as the budget calls them “electronic nicotine delivery systems.” This isn’t simply a revenue raiser, although it would raise an estimated $24 million a year. The real need is to make the product more expensive to an increasingly youthful cohort of vapers attracted by its bargain price and its flavored products (an aspect of the problem not tackled in the Senate budget).
The Senate also included a 15 percent excise tax on the gross receipts from sales of prescription opioids, the revenue from which — estimated at $14 million a year — would go into the state’s Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment Fund.
UMass tuition freeze: Both the House and the Senate have agreed on the bottom line appropriation for the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. The Senate, however, frustrated with the university system’s regular tuition hikes, opted for the blunt instrument of a one-year freeze on undergraduate tuition and fees.
UMass President Marty Meehan argues that will lead to cuts in the short term and cost more in the long run. What might be a logical alternative is a suggestion in a recent Pioneer Institutereport on university spending — an audit of capital and operating budgets by the state comptroller’s office. After all, where’s the harm in that?
The budget dollars of line items are relatively easy to negotiate — splitting the difference has always been a tried and true tool. Policy issues represent a higher degree of difficulty, but in the cases mentioned above are clearly worth the effort — and the fight.
My name is Letitia Jackson and I am a 55-year-old from Weymouth, Massachusetts. I am heavily affected by high drug prices due to my various medical conditions. I have been dealing with emphysema, chronic pain, and depression for many years. These issues are ongoing, so I am constantly returning to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions.
The ones that have been lifesavers to me are Trazodone, Symbicort, Celexa, and Gabapentin. I take others as well. Although some of my individual copays are low, they do add up. What I end up paying out of pocket takes a huge chunk of the fixed income I make each month.
Because of the high cost of my medications, I sometimes have to do without necessary appointments. I find myself cancelling doctor’s appointments because I realize that I can’t afford the copay to go because I already spent too much on my medications. This also adversely affects my health.
Life is hard sometimes, but it is much more difficult when I have to decide between having my prescribed medication or doing things like seeing my doctors. Patients in Massachusetts shouldn’t be forced to choose between the two. Our health is important and we demand our legislators pass laws that protects us.
We finally know what a black hole looks like. Next black hole to face the cameras: justification for drug company price hikes.
1. Patients win
2. Counts for nothing
3. Do you like apples?
4. What a week in Washington