The Star-Herald

Time to make sure Mainers have access to affordable prescription drugs

The price of prescription drugs has become a crisis in Maine. Too many people are forced to make sacrifices in other parts of their life in order to afford the medicine they need. Others simply don’t know if they’ll be able to pay for next month’s prescription refill. Some even travel across the border to Canada to buy similar medicine that is priced much lower than here. This is not just or right. Mainers shouldn’t have to travel for miles, or forgo paying other bills to be able to afford the medication they need to stay healthy and alive.

This year, the Maine Legislature passed several laws to reduce the burden of prescription drug costs. After months of discussions, committee meetings, sessions with experts and hearing from both supporters and opponents, we produced the bill “An Act To Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs.” This bill establishes a prescription drug importation program with Canada and addresses the issue of the outrageous cost of prescription drugs head-on. “An Act To Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs” has been signed into law and needs to be approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to go into effect. 

My colleagues and I in the State House have been working on this issue for several years. We realized that we couldn’t wait for the federal government to make comprehensive changes on prescription drug costs that patients so desperately need. Too many people are suffering in Maine, and there is just too much turmoil in Washington. With diligence and commitment, Maine lawmakers worked tirelessly to prepare a bill that would lead to more realistic prices for prescription drugs. 

Working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, we have finally turned a page. As they say, as Maine goes, so goes the nation. Our action in Augusta has helped spur changes in Washington. The Trump Administration’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, recently announced that the administration supported importing some prescription drugs from Canada. At last, the Trump administration has acknowledged that the cost of prescription drugs is a problem that too many families face. Even though it has taken this long for them to come around, I am proud that Maine is ready to work with the Trump administration and Mr. Azar right away. 

Maine is one of a handful of states that have passed drug importation legislation this year, including Vermont, Florida and Colorado. “Dirigo” in Maine isn’t just an idea; it’s a way of being. We are leading the charge on this issue, and our country knows that. I envision us working with the Trump administration on this serious and important issue in the coming months.

 I know that my fellow lawmakers and I are committed to ensuring that this process to start prescription drug importation goes smoothly and efficiently. We must see this through, regardless of how long or complicated our discussions might be. For the Democratic lawmakers in Maine, this is a top priority. The cost of prescription drugs is too much of a devastating problem that Mainers face on a regular basis. We are working hard to address that, and with the Trump administration’s support, we can make major changes for hardworking Maine families.

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