Dems Introduce Plan to Lower Drug Costs for Michiganders

Sen. Darrin Camilleri

By Kyle Kaminski

September 12, 2023

Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a new state board to keep watch on rising prescription drug costs in Michigan—and set new price limits for Big Pharma.

MICHIGAN—State Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) doesn’t think Michiganders should be forced to choose between feeding their families or affording their life-saving prescription drugs.

And with legislation introduced this week, he and other Democrats in the state Senate hope to pry loose the monopolistic grip that pharmaceutical companies have on Michiganders’ wallets.

“Prescription drug prices are too high. For too many Michiganders, especially those on fixed incomes, the increasing costs of prescription drugs means less opportunities to support their families—or that they don’t take their full dose, or even choose between affording food or medicine,” Camilleri said at a press conference in Lansing on Tuesday. “This is a crisis that has only been getting worse for years. We have been talking about this for way too long.”

Recent surveys show that about 27% of Michigan adults are cutting their pills in half, skipping doses of medicine, or not refilling their prescriptions due to the rising cost of their medications. Meanwhile, many pharmaceutical giants have reported sharp increases in their annual profits.

Bills introduced this week by Camilleri and Sens. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) and Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) would create a new “Prescription Drug Affordability Board” to identify which drugs carry the most obscene costs in Michigan, and then set price caps. 

The five-member board would be appointed by the governor, and would carry the regulatory authority to review and set specific limits on the prices paid for every prescription drug in the state—though officials plan to start with the most expensive, commonly used drugs like insulin.

A 2017 study reportedly found that one in four patients with diabetes were using less insulin than prescribed due to rising costs. Four years later, the Yale Diabetes Center in Connecticut again found that about 1.3 million Americans were rationing insulin due to the high cost.

“Everyone deserves access to life-saving and affordable medication,” Kleinfelt said on Tuesday. “We must stand up for Michiganders. We can bring down the cost of prescription drugs for people of all ages. … This board will use proven strategies that are already working in other states so that we can rein in the rising cost of prescription drugs here in Michigan.”

Prescription Drug Affordability Boards—or PDABs—are a relatively new form of independent entity of a state government, usually appointed by the governor, that are tasked with analyzing (and finding new ways to reduce) the cost of prescription drugs. Maryland was the first state to pass legislation to create a PDAB in 2019. At least five other states have since followed suit.

The regulatory authority of PDABs vary by state—and some wield more power than others. Lawmakers said Michigan’s board would operate similarly to those in Colorado and Washington, which can set limits on how much patients in their state can pay for certain prescription drugs.

PDABs in those states cannot technically restrict how much manufacturers can charge for drugs, but can instead limit how much pharmacies and wholesalers can pay for them—which ultimately ensures that out-of-pocket costs for patients in their respective states are limited. 

Michigan lawmakers expect to pass the bills before the end of the year, allowing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to appoint board members who would start reviewing the priciest drugs in 2024. The legislation also calls for the creation of a 21-member advisory committee to help the PDAB. 

Camilleri hopes their work will translate to savings for Michiganders “as soon as possible.”

“It is time for Michigan to take a stand against Big Pharma’s corporate greed,” he said.

Whitmer first called on lawmakers to create the independent board during a speech last month. She said it will use “evidence-based research” to help drive down costs for Michiganders, as well as hold more “bad actors” accountable for their “irrationally skyrocketing drug prices.”

Polling from Progress Michigan shows 79% of Michiganders support creating a PDAB. Several groups—including the Michigan Nurses Association, the Michigan League for Public Policy, People First Economy, and the Committee to Protect Health Care—have also voiced support.

Still, McDonald-Rivet said she expects the legislation will face pushback from the pharmaceutical industry and its “army of lobbyists” as it moves forward over the coming months.

“Corporate greed at the expense of our health and our livelihoods must stop,” she said.

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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