2020 was unlike any other year at the State House and on Capitol Hill. In Massachusetts, the COVID-19 pandemic brought our industry and the government closer than ever before through the Life Sciences Emergency SupplyHub. Because of the pandemic, the Massachusetts fiscal year 2021 budget was not signed by the Governor until December 11th, and the legislative session did not end until Tuesday, January 5th. Despite the turmoil caused by the pandemic, MassBio worked closely with the state to ensure Massachusetts remains the best place in the world for the life sciences. Here are the key highlights from 2020:
Ensured Further Drug Pricing Reform Legislation Did Not Pass
There were many legislative proposals relative to drug pricing reform that were not enacted in 2020. Of note, MassBio was successful in ensuring that Outside Section 43 of the Governor’s FY2021 Budget Proposal (Revised), filed in October 2020, that would have penalized drug manufacturers for increasing the price of a drug by more than CPI +2% in a twelve-month period did not become law.
Life Science Workers Deemed Essential Workers During Shutdown
MassBio was successful in advocating for life sciences workers to be included in the Baker Administration’s list of essential employees whose work could continue during the Massachusetts COVID-19 Pandemic. The FAQ can be found here and the excerpt is included below:
- Are bio-pharmaceutical research and development activities essential? YES
- GUIDANCE: Manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators, and distributors of or necessary to the supply chain of medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood and blood products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products.
- Pharmaceuticals includes companies and institutions involved in the research and development, manufacture, distribution, warehousing, and supplying of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology therapies, and medical devices, diagnostics, equipment and services.
Access for Massachusetts Residents to Co-Pay Assistance Programs Extended to January 1, 2023
In 2012, Massachusetts became the last state in the country to allow drug manufacturers to provide commercially insured patients cost-sharing assistance through coupons or vouchers. This program only applies to brand-name drugs for which no chemically identical generic alternative exists.
The FY2021 Budget (Chapter 227 of the Acts of 2020) includes Section 59 which extends the copay sunset an additional two years to January 1, 2023.
Legislation Passed to Increase Access to Cancer Clinical Trials
Travel and accommodation costs can pose a barrier to participation in cancer clinical trials, especially for low-income cancer patients. Section 26 of this law eliminates that barrier by allowing reimbursement for a cancer patient’s reasonable travel and accommodation expenses associated with participating in a cancer clinical trial.
Legislation Passed to Create a Rare Disease Advisory Council
There are approximately 7,000 known rare diseases including, for example, more than 500 types of rare cancers as well as all forms of pediatric cancer. Section 26 of this law establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council to advise the Governor, the Legislature, and the Department of Public Health on the incidence of rare disease in the Commonwealth and the status of the rare disease community. The council will also be tasked with creating a rare disease plan for the state and developing methods to publicize the profile of the social and economic burden of rare diseases to ensure health care providers are more informed about the unique challenges of those living with rare diseases.
It was a strong year for our industry and while the perception of the life sciences remains strong, we expect to be faced with harmful drug pricing policy proposals this year both at the state and federal level. Government is the life sciences’ greatest partner and MassBio will continue to work with our legislative partners to ensure they understand the true value of our industry in 2021 and beyond.