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New Mexico can lead to lower prescription drug prices


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s reelection is good news for New Mexicans concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs. The governor’s Prescription Drug Task Force recently made several important recommendations for the state to help make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for New Mexicans.

When the Legislature convenes in 2023, it should pass comprehensive reform that expands on those recommendations by incorporating three foundational principles — transparency in drug pricing; ending profiteering; and creating an independent body with expertise, focus and a mission to negotiate fairer and more affordable prescription drugs for New Mexico consumers.

Chances are you or one of your family members has a story about paying too much for a medication. Prescription drugs are critical to the health of many New Mexicans, and people across the state are struggling to afford the prescriptions they need, often having to choose between their medications and other necessities like rent and groceries.

Nearly half of New Mexicans report having skipped taking medication or not filling a prescription because of cost concerns. Prescription drug companies are the only businesses in the health care industry whose rates are not regulated, and Americans pay at least three times as much for the same name-brand drugs as other countries. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports 35 big drug companies raked in $8.6 trillion in profits between 2000 and 2018.

It’s time to stand up to the big drug companies with a comprehensive solution to lower prescription drug prices in New Mexico, because drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. Here are three key core reforms:

  • Transparency in drug pricing: All participants in the supply chain for providing prescription drugs in New Mexico, including pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers, should be required to open their books about the true cost of manufacturing, marketing and supplying drugs.

Consumers have a right to know what goes into determining the list price for drugs and what contractual agreements affect what they pay and what insurers are reimbursed. Other states have passed legislation requiring drug companies to provide justification for price increases over 10 percent, reporting on their profits for the drug, why they need the increase, how much they plan to spend on marketing and advertising, and other measures to hold them accountable.

  • Ending profiteering across the entire prescription drug supply chain. Drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers must stop putting profits before patients and end anti-consumer practices, including “spread pricing,” in which pharmacy benefit managers charge payers more for a prescription drug than what they reimburse pharmacies (and then pocket the difference). Benefit managers reform, including ending spread pricing, is a starting point.

Creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to hold drug companies accountable and incentivize lower prices — an independent panel is needed to implement market strategies that can help lower prices. Some of the most promising strategies include utilizing a statewide benefits manager to negotiate fair and affordable drug prices and provide drugs at the same low cost as Canadians. Many states, including Colorado, Oregon and Maryland, have passed board legislation, and creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board is among the top recommendations of the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Mexico can and should lead the way on comprehensive prescription drug price reform in the 2023 legislative session and should base its approach on improving transparency, ending profiteering, and negotiating fairer and more affordable prescription drugs for New Mexico consumers.

Barbara Webber is executive director of Health Action New Mexico and a leading voice with New Mexico Consumers for Affordable Prescriptions.

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