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Sen. Luján, NM organizations advocate for legislation to reduce drug costs

A coalition of New Mexico consumer protection agencies and health advocacy groups is drafting legislation that would change the way drug manufacturers report their prices, in an effort to increase transparency as some prescription prices skyrocket around the U.S.

Drugs that cost more than $400 for a month’s supply or have increased costs by 10% in the past year would be required to report certain information, including the introductory price of the drug when it first came on the market, how much revenue it made over the past year and the names and prices of generic equivalents.

On Wednesday, Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., met with health care experts and advocates in a town hall to discuss rising drug costs and health care worker shortages. Angela Ramirez, the deputy chief of staff for U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, also attended the meeting at Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless. Becerra’s flight to Albuquerque was delayed.

Luján lauded certain victories, including a nationwide cap of $35 on 30 days of insulin for Medicare patients that was passed a year ago. Similar legislation passed in New Mexico, which set limits at $25 per month for insulin.

Luján said more and more drug prices will be negotiated by Medicare. He also pointed to suggested legislation that would impose price ceilings and floors on prescriptions.

“Now this is just a start,” Luján said. “There’s much more work that has to be done.”

At the town hall, advocate Linda Brown spoke about her experience with high-priced prescriptions. Brown said her asthma is severe enough that she can’t sleep or talk if untreated; she’s on several medications to mitigate the symptoms.

“I’m one of the many New Mexicans whose monthly prescription bills are second only to my mortgage,” Brown said.

Brown said certain federal programs, including the Inflation Reduction Act, have helped.

But some populations are still at high risk when it comes to price hikes.

Seniors and homeless people are especially vulnerable to increases in their prescription costs, said American Association of Retired Persons New Mexico Associate Director of Advocacy and Outreach Othiamba Umi and Health Care for the Homeless CEO Jenny Metzler at the Wednesday meeting.

Umi said that some seniors will either not refill important prescriptions or ration them if the price jumps.

Barbara Webber, executive director of Health Action New Mexico, said more people have health coverage. But that benefit is lost if they don’t have access to necessary prescriptions, she continued.

“If you don’t have medications, you don’t have health care,” Webber said.

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Categories: State News