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Archive for Saturday, March 2, 2002

Drug firms fight prescription legislation

March 2, 2002

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— Large pharmaceutical companies are fighting a proposal that would pressure them to lower the price of prescription drugs used by needy Kansans and paid for by the state.

A bill before the Senate Ways and Means Committee would establish a preferred drug list for Medicaid, the program that provides health care services to nearly 200,000 poor and disabled Kansans.

Supporters argue that if the bill becomes law, drug companies might have to give the state bigger discounts to ensure that their products are placed on the list.

Drugs not on the list still could be prescribed to Medicaid patients, but doctors would first have to get permission from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

The Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on the bill this week, although Chairman Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, hasn't scheduled a vote.

During the hearing, Marjorie Powell, an attorney for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington group that represents large drug companies, asked committee members to defeat the bill as lobbyists from drug companies watched.

"We think that restrictive formularies take the decisions about patient treatment out of the hands of the doctor who is dealing with the individual patient and put it in the hands of a state administrator," she said.

Advocates for the mentally ill also testified against the measure, saying they feared it would make it harder for patients to get the latest drugs.

But Bob Williams, lobbyist for the Kansas Pharmacists Assn., said the bill wouldn't keep people who needed specific drugs from receiving them.

And Bob Day, SRS director of medical policy and Medicaid, said the proposal could help the department negotiate an additional 5 percent in drug rebates, which he estimated would save the state $10 million a year.

From 1997 to 2001, Medicaid drug costs for the state went from $100 million to $185 million.

Last year, 27.5 percent of the Medicaid budget was spent on prescription drugs. A decade ago, drug costs were only 12 percent of the Medicaid budget.

Morris said: "We need to do everything we can to lower pharmacy costs."

But Morris said he was uncertain that the bill has enough support to pass this year.

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