RADIO ADDRESS: A smart plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs starts with price transparency.

Posted: July 27, 2018 | Senator Vitelli, Weekly Radio Address

The cost of basic prescription medicine in this country is out of control. Too many Mainers can barely afford the cost of prescription drugs that are essential to their health and in some cases, are a matter of life or death.


It’s clear we are on the verge of a health care crisis and we need a smart, aggressive strategy to lower the cost of prescription drugs. This starts with improving transparency so we can better understand what’s driving these outrageous costs and do something about it.


Hello, this is Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic. Thanks for tuning in.


Over the past decade, we have seen the cost of prescription drugs skyrocket at unprecedented rates, with Americans being forced to spend more than ever before. These outrageous costs are putting pressures on all Mainers, specifically families and seniors who shouldn’t have to make basic health care decisions based on a tight monthly budget.


In Maine, we are off to a good start. This year, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed my bill to increase transparency in the pricing of prescription drugs. With drugs, like EpiPen and Insulin, jumping overnight, it became clear to me that Mainers need answers. These are just two high profile examples of the high cost of medicine capturing media attention.


In my work outside of the legislature, I have a young colleague who depends on insulin to live and monitors herself continually to maintain a healthy balance. She is just one of the millions of Americans diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that she has had since she was a toddler.


The cost of her insulin has increased more than 50 percent in the past four years, yet the makeup of the drug has remained relatively the same since its invention more than a century ago. My friend has insurance, which covers these high costs at the moment, but my concern is that if nothing changes, the cost will continue to rise and those without insurance will be in some serious trouble.


Increasing drug price transparency is only part of the solution, but it is an important piece of the puzzle and a doable first step. The challenge is that the prescription drug market does not function like other markets. It is shrouded in secrecy and it’s one of the few industries where added competition does not drive down the cost.

Under this new law, the Maine Health Data Organization will begin tracking prescription drugs that are the most expensive, most commonly prescribed and have the highest year-to-year increases and report back to the Legislature. They must also gather more specific data from manufacturers that will allow us to understand the rationale behind the high cost of these medications.


With this new information, I hope to introduce legislation that will begin to provide meaningful relief to seniors and families all across the state.


When individuals can no longer afford to meet their basic needs due to the exorbitant cost of medication, we know we have a problem that cannot and should not be left up to individuals alone to solve. In the Legislature, we can take reasonable steps that set Maine on the path to achieving real relief for Maine people.


This is Senator Eloise Vitelli, thank you for listening.