BOSTON — The state Senate on Thursday approved a health care cost reduction plan that would cap costs for insulin and require pharmaceutical companies to notify state regulators when a new or expensive drug comes on the market.
The proposal, which passed on a 39-1 vote, would set new requirements on the pharmaceutical industry, require state licensure of pharmacy benefit managers, give state regulators the authority to examine certain drug costs, and create a commission to study the drug supply chain and patient access.
Proponents said the measure is aimed at reeling in ballooning prescription drug costs that have put the squeeze on low-income and elderly residents.
“Frustration with health care costs is as high as it ever has been, particularly with prescription drugs,” Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, the bill’s primary sponsor, said in remarks. “We must do something about prescription drug prices.”
The proposal would make pharmacy benefit managers — who act as a middleman between health plans, drug companies and suppliers — subject to state oversight.
Friedman said the drug “brokers” play a “major role” in determining how much consumers pay for prescription drugs but “are highly, highly unregulated.”
It would also create a trust fund to pay for medications for chronic conditions that disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.
Lawmakers adopted several amendments, including one from Sen. Diana Dizoglio, D-Methuen, requiring state regulators to study the cost of epinephrine injection pens for children 18 and younger. DiZoglio said prices for the lifesaving drug have skyrocketed and parents and caregivers are struggling to afford the injectors.
“It is critical that epinephrine be made available to children with life-threatening allergies,” DiZoglio said in remarks. “No child should die because the caregiver can’t afford life-saving medication.”
The proposal is backed by a coalition of public health groups including Health Care For All, AARP Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Medical Society, which say it will help improve service and reduce costs for health care consumers.
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