Legislative Update: Week of October 7, 2019

Oct 07, 2019


The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission released preliminary findings of its study examining the impact of prescription drug coupons and vouchers on health care costs. Among its key findings (Page 33): coupon values vary widely; use has expanded in Massachusetts; patients only paid 3% of total out-of-pocket spending through use of coupons, offering the largest benefit to patients with high out-of-pocket expenses; and coupons increased medical adherence. MassBio CEO Bob Coughlin issued a statement on the findings:

“The findings in the Health Policy Commission’s (HPC) preliminary report on prescription drug coupons are clear: coupons improve patient access to breakthrough therapies and have a measurable, positive impact on medication uptake and adherence. The HPC report notes that because of these factors, patients will avoid ED visits and hospitalizations and further reduce total healthcare spending. And because Massachusetts’ law prevents the use of coupons for branded drugs when a direct, generic equivalent is available, coupons do not steer patients toward branded drugs away from generics. With the current state law that allows for prescription drug coupons set to expire at the end of this year, it is critical that the Legislature act quickly to extend the program to ensure patients retain the access they need to therapies that keep them healthy and out of the hospital. Without legislative action, Massachusetts would become the only state in the country not to allow prescription drug coupons.”

On Wednesday, the White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report, “Measuring Prescription Drug Prices: A Primer on the CPI Prescription Drug Index,” concluding that the best measure of prescription drug changes is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) CPI Prescription Drug Index (CPI-Rx). Based on this measure, the CEA states that “not only are drug prices increasing more slowly than general price inflation; in the most recent period, drug prices have been decreasing,” adding that, “As of August 2019, the CPI-Rx has declined by 0.7 percent over the previous 12 months.”


Several committees hold hearings this week, including the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing which, on Tuesday, will hear testimony on Senate Bill 1235, relative to step therapy and patient safety, and House Bill 1853, relative to fail first and patient safety. Additionally, the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure holds a hearing on Monday where it will hear testimony on Senate Bill 154, relative to bad faith assertions of patent infringement; and the Joint Committee on Public Health will hear testimony on House Bill 1934, to create a Massachusetts rare disease advisory council, during its Tuesday hearing.

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