Maine Senate passes Jackson’s bill to lower drug costs

Posted: June 22, 2017 | Senator Jackson

LD 1280 would force Big Pharma to make drugs available for generic production

AUGUSTA — As the cost of prescription drugs continues to rise faster than wages and inflation alike, the Maine Senate on Thursday took action to lower drug costs by passing LD 1280, “An Act Regarding Drug Pricing,” sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash.

“The high cost of medicine is a burden on Mainers all over our state, all while Big Pharma makes an obscene fortune on the backs of our families” said Sen. Jackson. “It is one of the greatest sins of our nation that life-saving drugs are treated like nothing more than profit centers for big business. Mainers and Americans deserve affordable prescriptions so that they don’t have to choose between buying their medicine and paying their bills.”

LD 1280 was giving initial approval by a 19-16 vote. The bill seeks to lower drug costs by forcing brand-name drug producers to follow federal law by providing samples of their drugs to generic producers, so that generic alternatives may be sold when the drug’s patent expires.

The FDA currently requires name-brand pharmaceutical producers to make their drugs available to generic manufacturers. However, Big Pharma can and does withhold their product from generic companies, citing an FDA provision called “REMS,” or Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, as the basis for their refusal. REMS is intended to ensure drug safety, but is used by name-brand drug producers as cover to shield their products from generic competition.

LD 1280 would amend the Maine Pharmacy Act to require that a drug distributed in Maine be made available for sale to an FDA-approved generic drug manufacturer who is seeking to develop a cheaper alternative. The bill was also amended in the Senate to protect name-brand producers from liability in lawsuits involving generics created under the terms of the Act.

“Critics of this legislation have tried to muddy the waters, but the issue here is simple: We owe it to the people of Maine to fight, in whatever large or small ways we can, to relieve the burden of high prescription prices,” said Sen. Jackson. “They say we may be challenged in court. They say bureaucrats in Washington may claim that Maine can’t enforce this law. But Maine has paved the way for change countless times. We passed a first-of-its kind clean elections law. We were among the first in the nation to legalize medical marijuana, and just this month we became the first state in the nation to pass a food sovereignty law. If challengers come, I say: Let them. But let it never be said that Maine’s elected officials didn’t do everything we could to make sure that drugs are affordable for our constituents.”

LD 1280 now heads to the House of Representatives for an initial vote.