We can all agree that New Jersey is the greatest state in the nation; but we can all also agree that we must work to make our state more affordable. More affordable for homeowners, working families, businesses, and more affordable for patients who rely on life-saving prescription drugs.
Prescription drug prices are escalating at an unprecedented and unsustainable rate. It not only affects the health of the people who rely on these drugs, but the wallets of every hard working New Jerseyan. The numbers speak for themselves:
- Issue affects all of us: Seven out of 10 Americans take at least one prescription drug; more than half of all Americans take two prescription medications. Mayo Clinic
- Prices keep increasing: 30% of Americans who currently take prescription medicine say their out-of-pocket cost has increased in the past year (Consumer Reports, Nov 2019)
- And they’re increasing by a substantial amount: Of those, 12 percent say their drug costs went up by $100 or more causing financial consequences like forgoing other bills or getting a second job (Consumer Reports, Nov 2019)
- NJ is no exception: Between 2012 and 2017, prescription prices rose 58% in New Jersey; Nearly one in four NJ residents now adjust their doses to save money (AARP)
Paying for necessary prescription drugs has become a Hobson’s Choice in our state – with patients deciding to pay for medicine or go without so they can afford rent, groceries and other life expenses. Certainly, you should not end up in the poorhouse because you are sick. In the richest nation in the world, and one of the wealthiest states in America, this is unacceptable and simply unconscionable.
That is why I introduced two initiatives that have the collective goals of reducing the cost of prescriptions drugs for New Jersey residents: establishment of Bulk Purchasing Arrangement and creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
First, our Bulk Purchasing Arrangement proposal seeks to utilize the State’s massive purchasing power to attain lower prescription drug prices. Consider that between Medicaid and benefits for public workers, the state of New Jersey insures more than 2.5 million people. It will require the Division of Purchase and Property to review all State pharmaceutical purchasing arrangements and contracts to maximize the State’s bargaining power. It also asks that they reach out to county and local governments and private entities who would undoubtedly also benefit from bulk purchasing.
Secondly, I introduced a proposal – which is based on the recently enacted Maryland initiative – that will create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The Board will also determine if there is a need to establish upper payment limits on certain products or whether or not to allow importation of certain pharmaceuticals from other countries. The purpose of the Board is to conduct a study of the entire pharmaceutical distribution and payment system, as well as examine what other states are doing to lower pharmaceutical process. It will also conduct a study of the generic drug marketplace and identify pharmaceutical products that have created affordability challenges for NJ patients.
Together, these two proposals will seek to drive down prescription drug costs through collaboration and negotiation, ultimately benefiting the people of New Jersey. But collaboration and negotiation aren’t the sole remedies to this problem. They are two key pieces of the strategy, but a third one – competition—is also something we’ve worked to implement.
Just last month, Governor Murphy signed into law my legislation that will establish a prescription drug pricing disclosure website. This law will bring more drug price transparency to the state, and in turn, create competition that will result in lower costs. It is our hope – that our combined efforts to bring collaboration, negotiation and competition to the marketplace will help to drive down the costs for these needed prescriptions.
That’s my take, what’s yours?