HCN News & Notes

Senate Passes Pharmaceutical Access, Costs, and Transparency Act

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate passed “An Act Relative to Pharmaceutical Access, Costs, and Transparency” (PACT Act), comprehensive pharmaceutical cost-control legislation aimed at addressing the high and rapidly increasing costs of prescription drugs.

By connecting the need for greater drug-price transparency with policies to improve oversight over the pharmaceutical industry, the legislation will put Massachusetts at the forefront of the state’s efforts to tackle increasing drug costs. It will also reduce drug costs to patients and lower healthcare costs overall.

“Today the Senate stood unified in our mission to tackle the pressing issue of healthcare access and affordability,” said Senate President Karen Spilka. “I am excited to see the PACT Act advance, as we have heard for far too long that the rapidly rising cost of prescription drugs is the greatest issue facing individuals and families today. I look forward to seeing this legislation move forward so that many families can finally see relief.”

State Sen. Cindy Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, added that “this bill will bring us one step closer toward addressing rising costs within our healthcare system that continually impact patients’ ability to access the care they need. By reining in prescription-drug costs and increasing transparency and oversight within the pharmaceutical industry, we can drive down costs and improve patient outcomes.”

State Sen. Eric Lesser added that “no family in Massachusetts should ever have to choose between paying their bills and affording the medicine they need. This bill goes a long way in protecting people from the high cost of prescription drugs, assuring access for patients, and demanding transparency from drug companies. It ends the price gouging of insulin by capping co-pays at $25, providing immediate relief for nearly 700,000 people in Massachusetts.”

Lesser authored an amendment to the bill that forms a commission that will study creating a bulk-purchasing program to reduce the cost for drugs that treat common diseases like diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis C. He authored similar legislation in 2015 which led to the creation of the Municipal Bulk Purchasing Trust Fund that dramatically lowered the cost of the life-saving overdose-reversal drug known as Narcan. The hope is that a similar bulk purchasing program could lower the cost of other drugs in high demand. 

“Bulk purchasing programs work,” Lesser said. “We have seen them work with Narcan, and now it is time to expand it to other life-saving drugs so that we can further drive the costs down.”

Lesser also authored an amendment that requires pharmacy benefit managers to notify health-plan clients if the PBM has a conflict of interest.

The legislation now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.