Take Action Against Out-of-Control Prescription Drug Prices

By Jill Zorn 

May 1 is Health Care Action Day at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford and one of the major issues we will be focused on is combatting the high and rising cost of prescription drugs.   

Outrageous prescription drug costs are a huge worry for Connecticut residents. Responding to a survey of Connecticut adults in 2018: 

  • 88% of people who take prescriptions regularly, 64% of people who buy insurance on their own and 50% of those with private insurance said they are worried they won’t be able to afford their medications. 
  • 20% reported they did not fill a prescription, cut pills in half and/or skipped a prescribed dose. 

Meanwhile, every time you pay for your prescriptions at the pharmacy, drug corporations are plowing your hard-earned dollars into advertising. They spent $3.73 billion on TV commercials in 2018 — an increase of $300 million over last year — and spend far more on marketing to physicians. Where else is the money going? Hint: it’s lobbyingstock buy-backsCEO salaries and excessive profits, not research and development.   

A bill in the Connecticut General Assembly, HB 7174, seeks to address prescription drug affordability concerns by allowing more residents to benefit from a new pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) contract being negotiated by Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s office for the state employee health plan. As this recent Connecticut Health Investigative Team article explains: 

“Lembo is seeking to reform the PBM process. His recent request for proposal for a new pharmacy benefit manager to run the state’s prescription drug programs requires an unprecedented level of transparency and that all savings be passed on to taxpayers and patients. ‘We’re trying to make sure that our members… are best served with the best possible price for the most effective drugs,’ he said.”

HB 7174 proposes to allow more people to benefit from the negotiating power of the state employee plan and their new PBM in two ways:

  • A discount card backed by the state’s new PBM will be made available on request to Connecticut residents to help them afford the out–of–pocket costs of their prescriptions. 
  • Municipalities and companies who self-insure (most organizations above 200 employees fund their insurance coverage themselves) will have the opportunity to contract with the PBM to provide prescription drugs at the same price negotiated by the Comptroller. 

The bill has several other provisions, including creating a task force to investigate importing prescription drugs from other countries, as other countries pay much less than the United States for the same drugs. In 2018, Vermont passed the first–in–the–nation importation law, but hurdles and questions remain which the task force will be able to address.  

If you care about prescription drug costs and you want to help push HB 7174, please consider attending Health Care Action Day on May 1.  To learn more and RSVP go HERE