100+ Michigan doctors back legislation to create prescription drug board

By Michigan Advance

October 18, 2023

BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHGIAN—Legislation that would create a board to address the impact of prescription drug costs on Michiganders has received a public show of support from health care professionals across the state.

The Committee to Protect Health Care, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to expand health care access, released a letter Monday signed by more than 100 Michigan doctors expressing support for a trio of bills that would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB). If signed into law, the board would have the authority to set upper payment limits on drugs sold in Michigan.

“Coming from different communities, backgrounds, and specialties, we’re concerned about Big Pharma price gouging our patients and preventing too many of them from accessing the medications they need to be healthy and live,” states the letter. “That’s why it’s particularly troubling to us that Big Pharma is actively misleading lawmakers, using their enormous advertising budgets, about where doctors stand on the PDAB and how it will impact patients.”

Dr. Rob Davidson is a Grand Haven-area emergency physician who is also the executive director for the Committee to Protect Health Care. He ran for Congress as Democrat in 2018.

“We want lawmakers and Michigan residents to know that Big Pharma does not speak for us,” he said during an online press call Tuesday. “You’ve probably heard a million times at the end of pharmaceutical ads the phrase, ‘Ask your doctor if this medicine is right for you.’ That’s because doctors are the experts who work to build trust with our patients. We urge Michiganders and lawmakers to listen to the real doctors, not the phony pharmaceutical corporation ads pretending to be us.”

Senate Bills 483, 484 and 485, sponsored by state Sens. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) and Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) respectively, are currently in front of the House Insurance and Financial Services Committee after passing along party lines in the Michigan Senate earlier this month. The only exception was Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker), who abstained from voting on the package out of concerns his experience in healthcare consulting would create a potential conflict of interest.

The board would be made up of five members appointed by the governor, consisting of nonpartisan leaders in health care, economics and the supply chain, as well as academics without a personal or financial stake in the pharmaceutical industry. The board would also be advised by a 21 member council made up of industry and advocacy experts, who would identify opportunities that would trigger an investigation into a drug’s cost.

Dr. Aisha Harris, a family physician in Flint who also spoke during the call Tuesday, said access is intrinsically linked to affordability, and detailed the experience of one of her patients who could not afford an asthma steroid inhaler.

“She opted for the better than nothing treatment, which is basically using her rescue inhaler every time she felt that she had wheezing or shortness of breath,” said Dr. Harris. “This has increased the number of asthma exacerbations or flare-ups she’s had, which can cause additional lung injury and eventually lead to possible hospitalizations and even death, preventable risks that if she could control her asthma, we could stop from happening.”

Dr. Farhan Bhatti is the Michigan lead for the group and a family physician in Lansing.

“From our perspective as physicians, Big Pharma is being completely disingenuous about lowering drug prices—if they wanted to, they would,” he said. “For years drug costs have skyrocketed, along with pharmaceutical corporation profits, while our patients have suffered, unable to afford the medicines we’ve prescribed. It’s past time for action. It’s time for a Prescription Drug Affordability Board in Michigan.”

When asked what he thought the chances were for the legislation to advance through the Michigan House given the lack of Republican support in the Senate, Davidson said this should be an issue that crosses the political aisle.

“This should be a bipartisan, overwhelming victory because in the end, it’s going to help patients,” he said. “Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer has named this as a priority when she gave her speech on what’s next here in Michigan, and so we know that the governor’s office understands what a priority this is. So we’re extremely hopeful that this will work its way through the House in the next few weeks and get to the governor’s desk before the end of the year.”

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license. 

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