The Star-Herald

Taking on ‘Big Pharma’ to lower prescription drug prices

When it comes to health care, Maine should be fighting for patients over profits. This is especially true when it comes to prescription drugs. Maine people should not have to jump through hoops just to purchase the prescription drugs they need to survive. Nobody should have to choose between putting food on the table, heating their home or taking their medicine.

It’s high time we took action to lower the cost of prescription drugs in this country. And I don’t mean making minor progress around the margins. We need to tackle the prescription drug crisis head-on.

Earlier this month, my colleagues and I stood alongside Maine seniors and patient advocate groups to roll out a comprehensive prescription drug reform package so we can actually lower the cost of prescription drugs for Maine workers, families and seniors. Our goal is to make prescription medication more affordable and more accessible while holding middlemen and large pharmaceutical companies accountable.

It’s unconscionable that prescription drug companies are raking in the profits while people are struggling every day to stay alive. Our drug reform package includes a total of five bills designed to attack this issue from all angles.

From my perspective, it’s really hard to pay outrageous amounts for prescription medication when you can look across the St. John River and see the same drug being sold for a fraction of that cost in Canada. It’s even harder to watch your friends, families and neighbors go through that same struggle. As a lawmaker, I can’t look people in the eye and tell them there is nothing I can do. It’s why I’ve long been a proponent of legislation that would allow Mainers to import prescription drugs from Canada.

This year, I’ve introduced two bills that would allow Mainers to get prescription medication from Canada. On average, prescription drugs sold in Canadian markets are 30 percent cheaper than the same or similar medication sold in the U.S.

As a result, more and more states are exploring this option. Across the country,  roughly 16 states are considering proposals around the importation of prescription drugs, including our neighbors in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Last year, Vermont passed a bill that would allow the state to wholesale importation prescription medicine to lower costs for residents in their state. The Vermont Agency of Human Services estimates that this program will save residents of that state $1-5 million per year. Why shouldn’t Mainers be able to access the same savings?

Other key components of our prescription drug plan including holding middlemen accountable, improving transparency in the drug pricing process and creating a drug price accountability board.

I’m not naive — I know that passing this bold reform package won’t be easy. Drug manufacturers are already spending lavishly in Maine to protect their bottom line. They’re prepared to put up a fight.

But so are we. My colleagues and I have knocked on doors, we’ve held town halls and we’ve heard from the people who sent us to Augusta that they need lower drug prices and they need them now. Senate Democrats and our colleagues stand ready to put Maine people over profits and to fight to do what’s right.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.