Bill aims to reduce cost of most expensive prescription drugs for Mainers
AUBURN — A new bill aims to lower the cost of prescription drugs by making prices comparable to northern neighbor Maine.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the bill’s author, Senator Ned Claxton, said LD 1636 builds on previous legislation to “control prices and hold the industry accountable.” prescription drugs”.
Claxton, a Democrat, represents Auburn, Minot, Mechanic Falls, New Gloucester and Poland.
A law to reduce prescription drug costs using international prices would cap the price of 250 of the most expensive prescription drugs for Mainers at the price of the same drug in Canada. The state would be required to update the list of the 250 most expensive drugs and the corresponding prices in Canada each year and based on the costs of the previous calendar year.
Any drug maker or distributor caught violating the price limits would be fined $1,000 for the first time.
Now retired, Claxton practiced family medicine in the Lewiston-Auburn area for nearly 40 years.
“As a family physician, my goal has always been to ensure that every patient who walks through the doors of my practice receives the care and medications they need,” Claxton said.
“However, the cost of prescription drugs has proven to be a real barrier for working-class families in my area. The price patients are expected to pay for prescription drugs in the United States is staggering,” especially when compared to the price of the same drug in Canada.
Senate Speaker Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, has called US drug prices a “scam.”
“It’s a joke. It’s a crime what’s going on in this country,” said Jackson, who introduced his own legislation at Monday’s press conference. It would expand free access to prescription contraceptives established by the Federal Affordable Care Act in 2010.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted last fall found that about a quarter of American adults said it was difficult to afford the cost of prescription drugs. The same survey found that three in 10 adults said they were not taking their prescription drugs as directed due to affordability issues.
“As a doctor and a patient myself, I know people have a hard time keeping up,” Claxton said. “In Maine, nearly one in three adults skipped a dose of medication, cut pills in half, or did not fill a prescription due to cost in the past year.”
The brand name drug, Jardiance, which is used to treat type II diabetes, costs Canadians about $22, while Mainers paid $622 for the same prescription in 2019, according to Claxton.
” It does not mean anything. The American drug will cost on average twice what the drug will cost across the St. John River,” he said.
Ann Woloson, executive director of the health coverage advocacy nonprofit, Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, spoke in favor of the bill. She said the organization, which runs a helpline, often hears from Mainers worrying that they won’t be able to afford the cost of their medication.
Bridget Quinn, associate state director of advocacy and outreach at AARP Maine, said that in a 2021 survey by the organization, three out of four Mainers over the age of 45 said they were important for them to be able to pay for prescription drugs.
“Too often our office hears from Mainers who make impossible choices between paying for the medications they need and paying for other essentials, like food and heat,” she said.
“It’s unacceptable,” she said.
The Maine Legislative Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services will hold a public hearing on the bill Tuesday at 10 a.m.
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