AUGUSTA—The Maine Senate sent the final component of a comprehensive prescription drug reform package to the governor’s desk in a unanimous vote on Tuesday. The package contains a suite of proposals from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, that would allow the wholesale importation of prescription medicine, create a prescription drug affordability board, increase drug price transparency and better regulate pharmacy benefit managers.
Three of the bills were sent to the governor’s desk late last week. Gov. Janet Mills has 10 days upon receiving legislation to sign a bill into law, allow it to become law without her signature, or veto it.
“Prescription drug reform is badly needed in this country. Too many people are sacrificing their health and well-being because they can’t afford their medicine and don’t want to burden their families. That is unconscionable,” said President Jackson. “It’s time to make things right. With this bold prescription drug reform package, Maine lawmakers are stepping up to fight for what’s right. We’re tired of feeling helpless as constituents continue to share painful, and often deeply personal, stories or experiencing the squeeze of prescription drug costs ourselves. I’m grateful to all of the constituents, lawmakers and health care advocates who championed this set of bills and look forward to the governor signing them into law.”
OVERVIEW OF THE PACKAGE:
- A bill sponsored by Pres. Jackson – LD 1272, “An Act To Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs,” – would set up a wholesale prescription drug importation program with approval from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Trump administration has indicated its support for similar measures in other states, including Florida and Colorado, and President Trump has directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with those states to implement importation programs. This bill is modeled after a Vermont law that passed last year. Maine’s proposal also includes language directing the Department of Health and Human Services to consider whether the program may be developed in conjunction with other states.
- A bill from President Jackson – LD 1499, “An Act To Establish the Maine Prescription Drug Affordability Board” – would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. This board would determine prescription drug spending targets for public entities based on a 10-year rolling average, accounting for inflation with spending reductions, and would provide methods for achieving lower prescription costs through measures such as bulk purchasing, leveraging multi-state purchasing, or negotiating specific rebate amounts.
- A bill from Asst. Senate Majority Leader Vitelli – LD 1162, “An Act To Further Expand Drug Price Transparency” – would gather information related to the pricing of drugs all along the supply chain from manufacturers to wholesalers, pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies. This bill builds upon previous legislation introduced by Sen. Vitell, which became law last year. Other bills in this package rely on this data to understand how the costs of development, advertising, and profits affect pricing for the consumer.
- A bill from Sen. Sanborn – LD 1504, “An Act To Protect Consumers from Unfair Practices Related to Pharmacy Benefits Management” – prohibits pharmacy benefit managers from retaining rebates paid by manufacturers and requires those rebates to be passed along to the consumer or the health plan. Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), often referred to as “middlemen,” have come under national scrutiny for driving up costs and pocketing savings despite claims that PBMs work on behalf of consumers negotiate lower drug prices. Rebates can drive up drug prices because they incentivize high wholesale prices and hide the cost of drugs from the consumer.
In the U.S., one in four Americans struggles to pay for their prescription medication while one in 10 Americans does not take their medicine as prescribed due to cost. Across the country, a number of state legislatures are taking action to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, about 200 bills have been filed in 42 state legislatures to address the cost of prescription drugs.