AUGUSTA — In the wake of state and federal laws pressuring the insulin manufacturer to lower the price of lifesaving medication, Eli Lilly has announced plans to cut prices for a number of insulin products and expand efforts to cap out-of-pocket insulin prices at $35 per month.
Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, released the following statement celebrating this news and calling for lawmakers, advocates and patients to keep up the pressure on Big Pharma:
“Today’s announcement marks a huge win for the thousands of Mainers and millions of Americans with living with Type 1 Diabetes whose lives depend on access to insulin. Over the past decade, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from Mainers about what the price of this 100-year-old drug means for their families. It means making impossible choices between heating their home, putting food on the table, or taking the medication that keeps them alive. Folks have resorted to rationing insulin; some have even lost their lives. So while today’s announcement is welcome news, it does not mean our work is over. If anything, we must double down on efforts to rein in outrageous prescription drug prices and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable.
“Lifesaving medication can only save lives if people can afford it. The way to rein in an out-of-control industry and deliver meaningful relief to Mainers and Americans is by passing ambitious legislation in State Houses across the country that forces both the federal government and pharmaceutical companies to act. The changes announced today along with the federal cap on insulin prices for seniors, Maine’s cap on out-of-pocket insulin prices for state-regulated insurance plans, and the state’s emergency insulin program will save lives. Our efforts are working and we won’t stop.”
RECENT LAWS TO REIN IN PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES
INSULIN SPECIFIC LAWS
- Established insulin safety-net program. In 2021, lawmakers created a program that allows eligible Mainers to access an emergency 30-day supply of insulin at any pharmacy for less than $35. Since its discovery more than 100 years ago, insulin’s price has skyrocketed, with more Americans skipping doses and in some cases dying due to cost. This program is designed to save lives.
- Capped out-of-pocket insulin prices for eligible patients. In 2020, President Jackson cosponsored a law capping the out-of-pocket price of insulin at $35 for a 30-day supply for patients in the individual and small group markets (otherwise known as state-regulated health insurance plans). The law allows pharmacies to provide patients insulin based on an old prescription in emergency situations – this is also known as “Kevin’s Law.”
OTHER RELEVANT LAWS
- Studying long-term solutions to prescription drug reform. Canadians pay a fraction of the price that Mainers pay for the same prescription medication. Adopting international reference rates could help rein in prices and ensure that Mainers aren’t paying more than our Canadian neighbors. In 2022, President Jackson cosponsored a law to study how much consumers could save if Maine adopted international reference rates for the most expensive and most common drugs in Maine. The results of this study are available here.
- Established Office of Affordable Health Care. In 2021, a law from President Jackson established the Office of Affordable Health Care, an independent, nonpartisan state agency designed to examine what’s driving health care costs in Maine and make recommendations for how we can deliver meaningful relief in this state. This week the Senate approved the appointment of Megan Garratt-Reed to serve as Executive Director of the Office.
- Strengthened drug price transparency. In 2021, a law from Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, strengthened drug price transparency laws, allowing lawmakers to close loopholes, rein in costs and identify bad actors.
- Plan to allow for wholesale importation of Prescription drugs. A 2019 law sponsored by President Jackson would allow the wholesale importation of prescription drugs from Canada in Maine with the approval of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services filed an application with the federal government to begin this program in 2020. Maine and other states are still waiting for approval.
- Established Prescription Drug Affordability Board. In 2019, President Jackson sponsored a law creating 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. The latest report from the Prescription Drug Affordability Board is available here.
- Expanded drug price transparency laws. A 2019 law from Sen. Vitelli gathered additional information related to the pricing of drugs all along the supply chain from manufacturers to wholesalers, pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies. This measure builds on previous legislation introduced by Sen. Vitelli. The law directs the Maine Health Data Organization to produce an annual report based on this data. The latest report is available here.
- Increase the availability of generic medication. A 2018 law from then-Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson aimed to lower drug costs by forcing brand-name drug producers to follow federal law by providing samples of their drugs to generic producers, so that generic alternatives may be sold when the drug’s patent expires. It also established disciplinary actions for noncompliance and further authorizes the Attorney General to bring an action for injunctive relief to enforce the bill’s requirements.
- Established basic drug price transparency laws. A 2018 law from Sen. Vitelli directed the Maine Health Data Organization to analyze and post pharmacy data it currently collects to identify prescription drugs, both brand name and generic, that are the 25 most frequently prescribed in the State, the 25 costliest drugs as determined by total spending in the State and the 25 drugs that have the highest year-over-year cost increases in the State.