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Committee Takes Up Bills Aimed At Lowering Maine Prescription Drug Prices

The state’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee heard three bills Tuesday intended to help address the rising cost of prescription drugs in Maine.

Two of those bills seek to regulate pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, who work with pharmacies and drug companies to determine which drugs are covered and how much they cost consumers.

Maine Democratic Sen. Heather Sanborn of Cumberland is the lead sponsor of one of those bills. She says in many cases, PBMs operate in a way that only benefits themselves.

“LD 1504 attempts to rein in these abuses and realign economic incentives so PBMs can return to their proper role,” she says, “rather than lining their own pockets by rigging the system against consumers.”

April Alexander of the national PBM trade group the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association testified against the bill. She told the committee that the association has supported some legislation regulating the industry, but that this bill could have unintended consequences.

“What we fear and what we sense is that some of the provisions we’re considering here in Maine will actually raise prices, will raise costs, and may take away PBMs’ ability to drive down net costs,” she says.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association and others who testified against the bill, including the Maine Association of Health Plans, argued that it could ultimately raise prices for consumers, in part by making public numbers normally kept secret during negotiations.

Proponents of the bill say in many cases, PBMs’ practices make it more difficult for physicians to treat patients, and keep costs high.

The committee also looked at another bill intended to make prescription drug pricing in Maine more transparent.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.