One of the most important issues we’re working on in Augusta is addressing the high cost of prescription drugs. People across Knox County have told me how big a problem this is — it doesn’t make a difference whether the drugs have recently been developed or not. They all cost way too much. One in four Americans struggles to pay for their prescription medication, and one in ten does not take their medicine as prescribed because it’s too expensive.

It’s time not only to bring down drug prices at your local pharmacy, but also to hold greedy drug companies accountable for artificially raising prices and pocketing the profits. That’s exactly what we’re doing in the Maine Senate.

Since this is a complex problem, we’re working on four different bills that reflect that complexity. First, LD 1272, “An Act To Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs,” would allow Maine to import wholesale prescription drugs from Canada. Many folks in Maine pay more than Canadians for identical drugs, so we must begin importing wholesale prescription drugs from Canada.

Introduced by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services both to develop the program and to consider whether Maine should include other states in the program. Vermont enacted a law like this in 2018 and Florida is considering similar legislation.

A second bill, also by President Jackson, would make drug pricing more transparent. The bill, LD 1499, “An Act To Establish the Maine Prescription Drug Affordability Board,” would create a board to make sure drug companies set fair prices. Companies would have to notify the board when setting or raising prices above a certain amount. The board would then use a public process to review prices and determine whether they’re reasonable. When the board finds prices that are unfair, it could set those prices at a fair level.

Next, a bill introduced by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, LD 1162, “An Act To Further Expand Drug Price Transparency,” would make drug companies tell us how they set prices. Information would be sent from the companies to the Maine Health Data Organization (MHDO), which would then report to the Legislature. Last year, Sen. Vitelli successfully passed LD 1406, “An Act To Promote Prescription Drug Price Transparency,” which required MHDO to collect data on the most expensive and most frequently prescribed drugs in Maine. Building on LD 1406, Sen. Vitelli’s bill this year would give us a powerful tool to hold drug companies accountable.

Finally, a bill introduced by Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, would tackle the part of the problem caused by companies called pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). These companies handle the prescription drug component of many folks’ insurance plans.

PBMs are theoretically supposed to work with drug companies to create savings, which should be passed along to you. But that’s not what has been happening. PBMs have been pocketing the savings for themselves. Sen. Sanborn’s bill, LD 1504, “An Act To Protect Consumers from Unfair Practices Related to Pharmacy Benefits Management,” would make these companies pass on savings to consumers and tell us how much they’re keeping in profits.

Maine is not alone: 42 states are working on legislation to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. This year, we have a real opportunity to improve the lives of people across Maine and America.

Holding drug companies accountable is just one part of fixing our broken health care system. For too long these companies have been kicking us when we’re down. They have shown that regulation to make them responsible corporate citizens in this country is way overdue, and we are doing our part here in the Maine Legislature.

If you’d like to get in touch with me, I’m always available at David.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov or 287-1515.