As part of their latest attempt to rein in soaring health care costs, Massachusetts lawmakers are now zeroing in on prescription drug prices .
State Rep. Jon Santiago, a Boston emergency room doctor, recalled a patient named Mike who had recently come to the hospital with life-threatening complications due to diabetes. Conversations with the man’s family revealed that he had not been keeping up with his insulin. The reason- it was too expensive.
Mike pulled through, said Santiago. However, he told his colleagues on the Legislature’s Health Care Financing Committee that the anecdote illustrates the need of an urgency of passing legislation reining in costs of the most expensive prescription medications.
Santiago said, at a standing-room-only hearing on drug pricing last week that it will save money and, more importantly it will save lives.
Top state officials and lawmakers are indeed zeroing in on prescription drug pricing as part of their latest attempt to moderate expenses of health care that are vexing consumers, insurers, employers, providers and the state government itself.
However, the representatives of the state’s flourishing biopharmaceutical sector are pushing back hard on the proposals to facilitate price controls on the most expensive medications. They say that such policies, will stifle innovation and threaten jobs.
According to the organization, biopharmaceutical companies support more than 300,000 jobs at this time and contribute around $80 billion to the state’s economy.
Supporters of the legislation say that they recognize the industry’s importance to the state. But they question claims that price curbs would thwart development of breakthrough drugs. They also think that it would make it harder for patients to access life-saving treatments.
Justin Lowe, legal director of Health Law Advocates, a Boston-based organization that assists low-income people secure needed medical services said that this is fundamentally a consumer protection bill.
The state’s Health Policy Commission found that the total prescription drug spending rose by 4.1 percent in Massachusetts in 2017. This is a slightly lower increase than in the previous year, still more than double the overall growth in health care expenditures.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has the highest drug prices in the world, having spent as much as $1,162 per person on prescription drugs in 2015.