Dear friends and neighbors,

One of my continuing efforts over the years has been to reduce the cost of the expensive prescription drugs that can strain household budgets. Two years ago, for instance, I secured $20,000 in the state operating budget to study the feasibility of the state producing certain generic drugs. This year I’m sponsoring legislation to make less costly generic drugs available through the state Health Care Authority.

Senate Bill 5203, which passed out of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee today, would authorize the state Health Care Authority (HCA) to partner with other states, state agencies and non-profit entities to produce, distribute or purchase generic drugs. It would also require state-purchased health insurance programs to procure generic drugs through the partnership. The bill requires that the drugs be produced or distributed by a drug company or generic drug manufacturer registered with the United States Food and Drug Administration, and that any HCA partnership result in savings to public and private purchasers and consumers.

Generics offer a cheaper alternative to many name-brand drugs while being every bit as safe and effective, but many common drugs are not available in generic form. A good example of this is insulin, a critical drug for people with diabetes. Although insulin has been around for nearly 100 years, instead of getting less expensive, the prices keep going up at rates higher than inflation.

Madison Johnson, a woman who faces the prospect of monthly insulin costs in excess of $1,200, put it better than I could when she testified during a committee hearing last week. Madison said her job and health insurance were at risk because of the COVID-19 pandemic and she was terrified of losing access to the medication and diabetes supplies she needs to live. Her closing thought was that no one should have to worry about how to obtain the medication they need to survive.

I couldn’t agree more.