“Prescription drugs are the fastest-growing costs in the state’s health care system. In Massachusetts, pharmaceutical spending continues to rise, outpacing other health care spending. According to the 2019 Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) report, pharmaceutical spending increased by 5.8%, while overall health care expenditures grew by only 3.1%.

Rep. Barber’s bill H.729 would make prescription drugs more affordable by implementing cost assistance programs for some medications, such as insulin and asthma inhalers, used to treat chronic conditions that disproportionately impact people of color and are also risk factors for increased COVID-19 complications. The bill would also help lower the cost of unreasonably high-cost drugs by allowing the state Health Policy Commission to conduct affordability reviews of certain drugs and regulate pharmacy benefit managers, who earn revenue from rebates with the drug manufacturer, without regard for what the consumer is paying. The bill would also improve pharmacists’ ability to advise patients if purchasing a drug at retail price without insurance would be cheaper.

“Prescription drugs cure disease, manage chronic illness, and not only improve one’s quality of life but are life-saving for many patients, a fact even more clearly understood since the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Barber. “The goal of this bill is to make prescription drugs affordable and accessible by increasing information on pricing, holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable and making sure families see the benefits.”

The Joint Committee on Health Care Financing heard testimony in support of H.729 from legislators, public health professionals, health care providers, and consumers during the July 13th hearing. Several patients testified at the hearing about difficulties they had in affording their medications.

Rep. Barber’s bill is supported by a growing coalition of organizations – including Health Care For All, Boston Center for Independent Living, Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Senior Action Council, Disability Policy Consortium, MASSPIRG, 1199SEIU, Health Law Advocates, Atrius Health, and Massachusetts Association for Mental Health.”

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