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Editorial: Rx roulette

If the fast-rising costs of prescription drugs don’t already count as an American crisis, they are the next thing to it. This is especially true for people with chronic conditions, or those who are aging.

Stories abound of people on prescription drugs, particularly seniors living on fixed incomes, cutting pills in half or going without food. It is an intolerable and unnecessary burden for residents of a first-world nation.

The fast-approaching end of the state legislative session includes several bills aimed at deflating the cost of expensive brand-name drug prices, encouraging generic alternatives and protecting consumers. They all deserve close consideration. As part of that effort, AARP New York has launched the #StopRxGreed campaign, part of a national initiative. The effort deals with:

• Non-Medical Switching: The bill, cosponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, prohibits health plans from reclassifying a prescription drug into a tier with a higher deductible, copayment or coinsurance during a contract period. Such practices are abusive and should be prohibited.

This is the most likely of the measure to be approved during the current legislative session. It’s a no-brainer.

• End Price Gouging: This measure aims to promote public health by preventing “unconscionable price gouging” by empowering the New York State Attorney General to take civil action against drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors.

• Manufacturer Disclosure and Transparency Act: The bill would require a manufacturer of a brand name drug doing business in New York to notify the Attorney General if the parties enter into an agreement with another drug manufacturer with the purpose of delaying the introduction of a generic version. This is commonly known as “pay-for-delay agreements.”

• Safe and Legal Importation of Pharmaceuticals: This measure would allow the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to certify a prescription drug importation program that is safe and saves consumers money. This could be especially useful for New Yorkers who are able to fill prescriptions in Canada.

• Another tool called Promoting and Expanding the EPIC Program will likely be featured in a future state budget. It is one of most popular programs in the state. AARP wants the governor and Legislature to expand the income eligibility criteria to allow more older New Yorkers to access the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program, in addition to launching a broad public outreach and awareness campaign to get more people to apply.

The high cost of prescription drugs is a nationwide hot button issue and groups such as AARP is involved in pressuring the industry. The statewide effort holds the most hope of getting immediate results.

It only requires bipartisan support and the governor’s signature.

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