State Legislators Told Trade Policies Could Threaten Access to Affordable Medicines

Meeting of State Legislators in Nation's Capital on Pharmaceutical Policy Told Trade Policies Threaten Medicaid Programs and Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 26, 2010
 
CONTACT:
Rep. Sharon Treat, NLARx Executive Director
207-242-8558 | streat@reducedrugprices.org
Prof. Sean Flynn, PIJIP Associate Director
202-294-5749 | sflynn@wcl.american.edu
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. - State legislators who are members of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx) met today at the Washington College of Law at American University to learn about emerging international trade policy and federal health care reform and the impact on prescription drug prices and access to medicines in the states. The meeting was also attended by health care and consumer advocates, pharmaceutical industry representatives and students and academics.
 
The meeting was particularly timely with the President's health care summit yesterday and the US Trade Representative's hearings on the special 301 Report next Wednesday. Sean Flynn, Associate Director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at Washington College of Law, briefed the state legislators on the recent and disturbing use of trade pressure and agreements by the USTR to create new international restrictions on pharmaceutical reimbursement programs that restrain excessive pricing by drug companies.

Professor Flynn discussed the lack of legal authorization for this agenda and the "incredibly unwise" direction at a time when the U.S. is struggling to find ways to restrain its own health costs. Flynn stated: "This agenda is not authorized by any statute or administrative directive, and the agenda is incredibly unwise at a time when the U.S. is struggling to find ways to restrain its own health costs."  Flynn noted that to the extent there are best practices in the U.S., they are at the state governmental level and they follow the same basic policies and principles of foreign countries that USTR seeks to discipline. "Reciprocal enforcement of USTR standards to state programs would obliterate the effectiveness of Medicaid pricing programs and threaten the administration's policy goal of reducing the cost of healthcare in this country," Flynn said.
 
The NLARx Working Group on Trade has submitted testimony to the USTR on the impact of emerging pharmaceutical trade policy on state Medicaid programs. "These initiatives will directly and negatively affect the capacity of states to provide health care and pharmaceuticals to their residents through existing Medicaid and state-funded programs, and will cripple the ability of states to expand access to health care in the future," said Sharon Treat, NLARx Executive Director and a Maine State Representative.
 
The legislators were also briefed on the status of pharmaceutical provisions in the health reform initiatives currently pending in Congress.  These include the Sunshine Act (payment and gift disclosure), the Part D "donut hole," price negotiation, PBM reform, generics policy and academic detailing. Panelists included Lance Kilpatrick, Senior Advisor for Rx Drug Strategies at AARP and Jasmin Weaver, Healthcare Initiatives Legislative Director for Change to Win.   NLARx has written several letters to Congressional leadership supporting pharmaceutical policy changes in the health care reform bills, many of which the states have pioneered.  Our letters are posted which are posted on our website
 
Ann Woloson, Executive Director of Prescription Policy Choices spoke about prescribing psychotropic drugs to children. States have experienced a 21% increase in spending related to psychiatric drugs purchased through public health programs, and children participating in these programs are prescribed these drugs at higher rates than those with private insurance.  "These drugs have significant health risks including weight gain, diabetes and movement disorders, and suicidal thoughts," Woloson said.  "States need to follow best practices to assure access for those who need these drugs, while monitoring and controlling the prescribing of these powerful antipsychotic drugs."
 
Meredith Jacob, Esq., Pharmaceutical Fellow at the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, spoke on the recent GAO Report, "Brand-Name Prescription Drug Pricing: Lack of Therapeutically Equivalent Drugs and Limited Competition May Contribute to Extraordinary Price Increases."

About the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices

NLARX is a non-partisan, non-profit organization of state legislators from across the country working to lower prescription drug costs and improve access to affordable medicines. Members include legislators from states in all regions of the country, from New England to Alaska and Hawaii and the District of Columbia. For more information and to sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter, visit our website at www.reducedrugprices.org.


Image of pills on blue background (CC) by Darren Hester.

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