Insider NJ

Singleton Joins With Health, Consumer Advocates To Announce Prescription Drug Affordability Proposals

Insider NJ — January 27, 2020

Trenton — In an effort to address the escalating prices of medications, Senator Troy Singleton introduced two pieces of legislation today concerning prescription drug affordability in New Jersey. The Senator made the announcement today at a press conference with New Jersey Citizen Action, AARP New Jersey, as well as other health and consumer advocates.

Specifically, the bills would establish bulk purchasing arrangements for pharmaceutical drugs, and create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board with the collective goal of reducing the overall price of prescription drugs for New Jerseyans. The Senator stated that these proposals are needed because, in recent years, the rising cost of prescription drugs has forced families of all economic backgrounds to decide whether they can afford lifesaving medicine.

"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 living expenses," said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). "In the richest nation in the world, and one of the wealthiest states in America, this is unacceptable and simply unconscionable. Together, these two proposals will seek to drive down prescription drug costs through collaboration and negotiation, with the ultimate goal of making them more affordable."

"Access to affordable prescription drugs should be a basic human right," said Maura Collinsgru, Health Care Program Director for New Jersey Citizen Action. "But pharmaceutical companies are increasingly turning these life-saving drugs into luxury items that are beyond the reach of those who need them most. We must address this rampant price-gouging at both the state and federal levels, especially since much of the research to produce these drugs is funded by taxpayers. We commend Senator Singleton for his leadership in introducing this legislation and urge our State Legislature to put their full support behind it. New Jersey families can no longer afford to put their lives at risk by not having the prescription drugs they need."

"AARP New Jersey applauds Senator Singleton for his leadership in the fight to lower prescription drug costs for all Garden State residents," said Crystal McDonald, associate state director for advocacy for AARP New Jersey. "AARP has been tracking drug prices for 12 years. Year after year the price of prescription drugs continues to increase much faster than inflation; this is because Big Pharma sets its own prices. This new bill establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board will ensure pricing decisions are reasonable, justified and support improved consumer access and affordability. There is no reason anyone should have to choose between filling prescriptions or affording essentials like groceries or utilities."

The first piece of legislation would establish the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The Board would be charged with protecting New Jersey residents, State and local governments, health care plans, health care providers, licensed pharmacies, and other stakeholders within the State health care system from the high costs of prescription drugs. The Board would be required to conduct a study of the entire pharmaceutical distribution and payment system in New Jersey, as well as policy options being used in other states and countries to lower the list price of prescription drugs.

The second piece of legislation establishes requirements for State entities to enter into bulk purchasing arrangements for pharmaceutical products. The Director of the Division of Purchase and Property in the Department of the Treasury would be required to review all State pharmaceutical purchasing arrangements, contracts, and initiatives, and consider options to maximize New Jersey's bargaining power with prescription drug products and pharmacy services. The director will also be tasked to create and maintain a list of prescription drugs, devices and biological products that may appropriately be prioritized for bulk purchasing initiatives or be reexamined for potential renegotiation with the manufacturer.

The director would additionally be required to develop outreach efforts and establish processes for the county and local governments, as well as small businesses, health benefits plans and self-insured individuals, to benefit from State bulk pharmaceutical purchasing arrangements.

"Medications only work when patients take them," said Doctor Jubril Oyeyemi of the Cherry Hill Free Clinic and Virtua Hospital. "Patients won't take them if they cannot afford to pay for them. This means for a good number of folks we care for, the sacred conversations that happen at their appointments cannot be acted on because of the high costs of these life-saving medications. This is deeply disturbing to us all. It must change."

"The Hyacinth Foundation proudly supports NJ Citizen Action and Senator Singleton in their efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the State of New Jersey," said Wesley McWhite, Policy and Development Associate for Hyacinth AIDS Foundation. "As the largest AIDS Service Organization in the State, we know first-hand how the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs reduces access to life saving medications that prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections. This important legislation will serve the most vulnerable; including members of our community, by bringing down cost, increasing access and saving lives across the entire State of New Jersey."

"Prescription drug prices are out of control. I went eight winters without heat or electricity so I could help pay for my mother's medications," said consumer, LeNor LeDoux of Burlington. "I would do it again in a heartbeat, but it's a decision no one should have to make. It's time to lower prescription prices."

During his time in the Legislature, Senator Singleton has introduced various initiatives designed to lower the costs of prescription medications in New Jersey. Just last week, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 2389, which will establish a prescription drug pricing disclosure website. The law will bring more drug price transparency to the state, and in turn, create competition that will result in lower costs.

New Jersey Citizen Action is a statewide grassroots organization that fights for social, racial and economic justice. They combine on-the-ground organizing, legislative advocacy and electoral campaigns to win progressive policy and political victories that make a difference in people's lives. In addition, New Jersey Citizen Action also provides free direct services to low-and moderate-income individuals across New Jersey to empower people to take control of their economic futures.

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