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McKeon on Prescription Drug Affordability Legislation Advanced by Assembly Health Panel on Tuesday

(Trenton) – Every year, prescription drug prices rise, increasing the difficulty for residents to get their necessary, daily medicine.  According to the ADA, the average fee for Insulin increased by 64% from 2014 to 2019. Insulin is not the only drug that continues to rise in price as many other prescriptions follow a similar pattern.  From 2013 to 2018, the average price for one inhaler of Advair, a leading medication for Asthma, rose from $316 in 2013 to $496 in 2018.

While prices have climbed throughout the years, there has been inadequate data reporting which has made it difficult for the state agencies to monitor emerging trends in prescription drug pricing at each stage of the supply chain.  Additionally, there has been limited transparency from pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), which has set an uneven playing field between pharmacies and patients.

To ensure prescription drug affordability in New Jersey, Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris) sponsors a bill package that would place a flat cap on out of pocket payments for individuals prescribed certain medicine, greatly improve transparency in the prescription drug supply chain, license and regulate PBMs, and establish a “Prescription Drug Affordability Board”. The package was approved by the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday.

“Prescription drug prices continue to rise and residents are paying exorbitant amounts for their medications,” said Assemblyman McKeon.  “For instance, there are nearly 900,000 New Jerseyans who currently take some form of insulin.  If these rates continue to escalate, many people will not be capable of affording the medicine essential to their daily lives.  It is clear that the current price structure must change.”

The legislative package includes:

  • (A-1747) (McKeon/Moen/McKnight) – Establishes Prescription Drug Affordability Board; appropriates $1,000,000.
  • (A-2839) (McKeon/Karabinchak/Quijano/Moriarty) – Requires health insurance carriers to provide coverage for epinephrine auto-injector devices and asthma inhalers; limits cost-sharing for health insurance coverage of insulin.
  • (A-2840) (McKeon/McKnight/Moen/Moriarty) – Establishes certain data reporting requirements for prescription drug supply chain; requires Division of Consumer Affairs to issue an annual report on emerging trends in prescription drug pricing; appropriates $900,000.
  • (A-536/2481)(Freiman/McKeon/Mosquera/Danielsen/Benson/Reynolds-Jackson/McKnight) – Establishes new transparency standards for pharmacy benefits manager business practices.

“Transparency shines a light on drug pricing and holds manufacturers accountable for increases or high prices for new prescriptions.  Pharmacy benefits managers were created as middlemen to reduce costs but a lack of transparency has allowed them to operate virtually unchecked,” said McKeon.  “State agencies and the public should not be surprised by unfair fee surges.  This legislative package would help solve that problem.”

The measures now head to the Speaker for further consideration.