MI Rx task force rolls up its sleeves


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High costs are preventing nearly 1 in 3 Michigan adults from taking needed medication. However, solutions to help bring down the price of prescription medication could be around the corner.

The new Prescription Drug Task Force established by Gov. Whitmer is starting its investigation into the scope and cause of the rising cost of prescription drugs. Manager of Advocacy with AARP Michigan Lisa Dedden Cooper said with no action on pricing at the federal level, this is Michigan's best chance to find solutions.

"We're very much looking forward to them having the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and come up with some practical solutions," Cooper said. "Other states have found paths forward to make changes to lower prescription drug prices. We can do it too in Michigan."

The average cost of prescription drugs rose by about 60% between 2012 and 2017, while income increased only 11%. The task force will present its recommendations to the governor by mid-August.

Cooper said state lawmakers also are currently considering several prescription drug reform measures that would allow for wholesale importing of medications from Canada or other countries, as well as strengthening consumer protections and improving transparency.

"Through increasing transparency we can shine a light on how drug companies are setting their prices," she said. "Patients deserve to know how much taxpayer-funded research went into developing a drug, how much the manufacturer spent on advertising compared to research and development."

It's estimated that marketing and advertising accounts for 30% of drug costs, compared to 17% for research and development. And Cooper said other bills would specifically help with the skyrocketing cost of insulin, which nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013.

"This is with a drug that not only do people rely on for life and death, but also it is a drug that really hasn't been a product of new 'R and D' in many years," she said.

The bipartisan Prescription Drug Task Force includes five state lawmakers, as well as directors of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Insurance and Financial Services, and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

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