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HB 154 will help lower prescription drug costs

During the last N.M. legislative session, several bills became law that will begin to rein in the high costs of prescription drugs. Those efforts continue this year with the introduction of House Bill 154, the Prescription Drug Affordability Act.

Prescription drug companies are the only businesses in the health care industry whose rates are not regulated. It is time to hold them to the same standard as all other health care providers. The Affordability Board, known as a PDAB, would serve as an independent body with the authority to evaluate high cost drugs and set reasonable rates for consumers to pay.

I know how difficult paying for much-needed medication can be. In 1995, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In addition to managing a chronic condition, I face insurmountable prescription drugs costs. The main drug I take to manage my disease costs nearly $100,000 a year. I am fortunate to have insurance, but still my out-of-pocket costs are often $10,000 annually.

Something has to give. That is why AARP New Mexico is supporting HB 154, sponsored by Rep. Angelica Rubio and Sen. Jeff Steinborn, both D-Las Cruces. New Mexicans, like all Americans, should not be paying the highest prescription drug costs in the world.

For too long, prescription drug companies have added to their profits while consumers struggle to afford the vital medications they need. We need the Legislature to step up to ensure all New Mexicans have access to affordable medications.

New Mexico can do better. The state regulates the cost of health insurance, electricity and other critical utilities, and it ought to look out for consumers of prescription medications as well.

To that end, AARP New Mexico has joined health experts, patient advocates and consumers to form the New Mexico Consumers for Affordable Prescriptions (NMCAP). The coalition is working in communities across the state, urging legislators to create the PDAB and hold drug companies accountable for the prices they charge. A PDAB offers the chance to balance consumer affordability with the revenue needs of suppliers.

Other states, including Maryland and Maine, are already moving forward to protect consumers with a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. This legislative session we can join them.

Last year, lawmakers targeted the high cost of prescription drugs by passing laws that capped the cost on insulin at a co-pay of $25 and called for the creation of a program to import prescription drugs from Canada. In 2019, they passed the Interagency Pharmaceuticals Purchasing Council to save the costs on prescription drugs across state agencies. The PDAB will be another tool toward reining in the high costs of medications.

AARP New Mexico urges New Mexicans to contact their legislators and urge them to vote yes on HB 154 – because medications don’t work if people can’t afford to take them.

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