Non-profit may alleviate state prescription drug costs

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(Host) There’s a new effort to control the price of prescription drugs. The National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices says it plans to establish a non-profit company to manage prescription drug plans in nine states, including Vermont. The plans are used by millions of state workers and Medicaid recipients.

Currently prescription drug plans are managed by companies called pharmacy benefit managers, or PBM’s. Many of the companies have agreements with drug manufacturers that result in the use of the more expensive drugs in exchange for sizeable payments to the PBM.

Former Vermont State Senator Peter Shumlin chairs the Legislative Association. Shumlin says the nonprofit benefit manager would be the first of it’s kind. He expects it to expand beyond the nine states his group is currently working with:

(Shumlin) “Not only other states, but businesses. We’re going to be providing services to anyone that currently uses a traditional PBM, which is half of all prescriptions filled in America. We don’t pocket the change. When we truly work in the public interest, we should have a better price than the others are offering.”

(Host) In the past, individual states, including Vermont, have tried controlling drug costs. A number of states have been taken to court by the drug companies.

Cheryl Rivers, another former Vermont state senator, is executive director of the Legislative Association. Rivers says interest in holding down prescription drug costs is peaking because many states are wrestling with budget deficits:

(Rivers) “Certainly in Vermont and Maine, there was interest in this before it was a state budget problem, because the mission is broader than just solving state budget problems. Obviously, where people might not have felt it was worth their attention a couple of years ago, they see it now.”

(Host) Rivers says it’s too early to tell what the savings will be to the states. Organizers hope to have the plan in place by the beginning of next year.

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