Far too many of our families, friends and neighbors lay awake at night stressing about the cost of their medications. They toss and turn, wondering what will happen if they skip a week’s worth of the pills the doctor prescribed to protect their health so they can pay this month’s rent.
Over the past six years, the average price of drugs prescribed to treat diabetes, heart disease, depression and other common conditions has more than doubled. There’s little transparency about how or why this is occurring, but there’s no doubt that the trend is having a detrimental impact on families in our state.
Thirty-two percent of Michiganders did not take their medicine as prescribed in 2017 due to costs. Instead, they skipped or rationed doses or went without altogether, having no choice but to go against their doctor’s orders.
Access to quality, affordable health care is something none of us should have to worry about. That’s why a bipartisan plan we recently helped introduce in the Michigan House is so important.
The comprehensive plan would help drive down the cost of prescription medications by improving transparency and ending dubious practices that allow big corporations to put profits over the health of their patients.
One of the biggest factors in determining drug prices are the middlemen who operate behind the scenes.
Let’s say your mother goes to her doctor and it’s determined that she needs another medication. You might assume her insurance company is who decides if and how that prescription gets filled — but that’s not the case. There is a middleman. These companies, called pharmacy benefit managers, negotiate with drug manufacturers and create the list of approved medicines for each unique health plan.
These middlemen — who are shrouded in secrecy and operate in Michigan without any regulation at all — prioritize medicines not by efficacy or affordability, but rather how much profit they get in return for their recommendations.
These practices affect each and every one of us — even those who don’t take a single prescription medicine on a regular basis. Drug price manipulation allowed prescription middlemen to overcharge Michigan Medicaid by at least $64 million, according to a 2019 report by the Michigan Pharmacists Association. Those are your tax dollars.
Our legislation would make commonsense reforms: Licensing the middlemen, ending the unfair practices that are causing Michiganders to pay more in prescription drug costs and adding transparency to help drive prices back down.
We’re also putting an end to gag clauses — contractual requirements that prevent pharmacists from disclosing if a brand name drug has a cheaper generic equivalent — so pharmacists can share cost-saving information with their customers. And we’re making sure patients are made aware when they can save money by paying out-of-pocket rather than paying their insurance’s co-pay costs.
The transparency measures we have included will require drug manufacturers and prescription middlemen to report to the state, including information when they increase the cost of certain medications.
People in communities across our state are struggling because of skyrocketing prescription drug prices, and they’ve been reaching out to share their concerns with me and other legislators. These reforms are a direct result of the consistent feedback we have received.
Life-saving medications are worthless if people can’t afford them. We must take action to make sure people can.