(Host) State officials say Vermont could face a serious fiscal problem if a lawsuit filed by the national pharmaceutical industry is successful in overturning the state’s new drug assistance law.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The trade organization for the nation’s drug companies, PHARMA, has asked a federal court to block several parts of Vermont’s new drug from going into place.
The new law, which went into effect on July 1, calls on physicians to consider using generic drugs instead of more expensive brand names drugs for Medicaid patients when the doctors feel the generics will be just as effective. If a doctor determines that a brand name drug is needed, the new law encourages physicians to choose a product from a preferred list of discounted drugs. A doctor can select a brand name drug that’s not on the list if they conclude that it’s the only drug that will help the patient.
According to PHARMA, doctors should be able to prescribe any drug right from the start and it’s challenging new drug laws in Vermont and 10 other states. Human Services Secretary Jane Kitchell says she is disappointed by PHARMA’s lawsuit because she feels the Vermont approach makes a lot of sense:
(Kitchell) “I think the best way of summarizing the preferred drug list is make sure that as a program we are using the least costly clinically appropriate alternative. And if there is a lower cost brand that’s available then that’s what we would use. Or if a generic is clinically appropriate then so it’s a combination of cost and clinically appropriate.”
(Kinzel) Last year the state spent more than $100 million on its Medicaid drug program. Kitchell says the new law is a way to reduce these costs by at least $10 million and she says the state will face a major financial problem if a federal judge imposes a preliminary injunction in this case:
(Mitchell) “We have anticipated savings from the preferred drug list which, if in fact if we’re not allowed to implement, would pose very significant fiscal issues for the state.”
(Kinzel) The new law also requires drug salespeople to register with the Secretary of State’s office and to report how much money they spend to influence doctors to use their products.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.