RADIO ADDRESS: In the absence of federal leadership, Maine stepped up and delivered on prescription drugs

Posted: August 15, 2019 | Senator Jackson, Weekly Radio Address

As Americans, we live in a country where medical breakthroughs happen every day; where scientists develop new life-saving medication daily. In many ways, we are living in the golden age of medicine, but none of that matters when regular people cannot afford the medicine they need to survive.

In Maine, we were tired of waiting for the politicians in Washington D.C. to stand up and do what’s right, so we rolled up our sleeves and took on “Big Pharma” ourselves. And we won.

Hello. This is Senate President Troy Jackson from Allagash. Thanks for tuning in for a special edition of the radio address looking back on this session’s health care wins.

At the start of this session, Gov. Janet Mills, Speaker Sara Gideon and I set out to make health care more affordable, reliable and accessible for Maine people. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. We knew that lobbyists and special interests would throw up roadblocks. We knew that we’d have to cut through partisan bickering to get results. And most importantly, we knew Mainers couldn’t afford to wait any longer for access to affordable health care.

Nearly every day, there is another heartbreaking story grabbing national headlines about someone’s brother, sister, parent or child, who died because they couldn’t afford their medicine. It’s tragic but unfortunately, it’s all too familiar. The stories are always similar – the condition wasn’t rare, it was manageable with medication but the cost of that medicine was too far out of reach. These deaths could and should have been prevented.

Meanwhile, Maine parents, spouses and children live in fear that someday, and possibly soon, that headline will be about their child, significant other or aging parent. I know because it’s what I’ve heard from the hardworking folks in my district for years. There are parents worried about how they will continue to afford their child’s insulin and heat their homes in the winter months. There are seniors living on fixed incomes who rely on medication to manage chronic illness so they stay active in their families. And there are working adults who can barely afford the medication that allows then to go to work and provide for their family.

The situation with prescription drugs is unique to this country and it’s out of control. Pharmaceutical companies have had unprecedented and unregulated power for far too long. In Maine, we were tired of hearing these stories and not being able to do anything about it. We passed a suite of bold prescription drug reform laws. Together, these laws will make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible, increase price transparency and hold drug companies and corporate middlemen accountable. 

The first bill, which I sponsored, allows Maine to wholesale import prescription drugs from Canada – they are the very same drugs we buy here, just more affordable. The second bill creates a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that will finally give consumers a voice in drug pricing, curb public spending and help drive down costs. The third bill holds corporations, acting as middlemen, accountable for pocketing savings that are designed for consumers. 

The final piece of this puzzle requires drug companies to share information on costs related to drug production, marketing, advertising and consumer price. This is a big deal.

In the absence of federal leadership, we did what Mainers do best. We stepped up and tackled the problem on our own, and now, our leadership is getting national results. After passing legislation to create a wholesale importation program here in Maine, it seems like the federal government is finally catching on. The Food and Drug Administration announced that it will look into allowing states to import safe and affordable medicine. This is a good first step and hopefully, the federal government will do its part to ensure Maine can begin its wholesale importation program as soon as possible.

All of the prescription drug reform laws will take effect on September 19 and it’s my hope that Maine workers, families and seniors will finally experience some relief. Many of you bravely shared your stories and it made a difference. We heard you and we delivered.

This is Troy Jackson. Thanks for tuning in.