State Lawmakers to Discuss Rx Issues

By: - October 15, 2001 12:00 am

Lawmakers and state officials from Oregon to Maine will converge on Vermont today (10/19) to advance plans for multi-state buying pools aimed at cutting the cost of prescription drug prices

The Northeast Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Priceswhich includes six New England states plus New York and Pennsylvaniawill discuss what officials are calling a “Northeast Fair Pricing Coalition.”

Member states hope to leverage collective buying power for 43 million residents under Medicaid, state employee and private plans to strike cost-cutting deals with pharmaceutical companies.

States’ buying power could translate into a 40 percent cost savings on prescription drugs, says Health Management Associates’ Myron Winkelman, who’s worked with the Northeast group and a consortium of southern states.

What’s the next step? Lawmakers have to decide what action they’ll take in their respective states to get the coalition up and running.

“Each state needs to enable itself to be part of the effort, by passing laws if necessary. Vermont is all set and is leading the charge,” Winkelman says.

Vermont Sen. Cheryl Rivers, an outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical industry, will be named the group’s first executive director at the meeting. In an interview with , she expresses enthusiasm over her new role.

“It’s a real historic opportunity for states to work together cooperatively to get lower drug prices and to change what’s going on in the country,” Rivers says. “I wouldn’t resign my Senate seat if I didn’t think the position was vitally important to the welfare of Americans and Vermonters in particular, and if I thought it was hopeless, I wouldn’t go off chasing windmills.”

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