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Former Gov. Jane Swift testifies on medication access

Former Gov. Jane Swift will return to the Beacon Hill spotlight this week when she adds her voice to growing debate about the role of prescription drug industry negotiators known as pharmacy benefit managers.

Swift plans to testify on Tuesday alongside her daughter, Lauren Hunt, about how pharmacy benefit managers made it more difficult for Hunt to access medication for the juvenile arthritis she has had since childhood.

Reform supporters contend that pharmacy benefit managers, often referred to as PBMs, serve as "middlemen" who steer patients toward allied larger retail pharmacies while increasing overall health care spending.

Swift, a Republican who served as governor for nearly two years after Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned for an ambassador job in 2001, will tell the Health Care Financing Committee "about the experience of helping her daughter navigate a complex and frustrating maze of phone calls, emails and time spent trying to secure access to medication her daughter needs," according to an advisory.

The duo also plan to address reporters after their testimony at the hearing, which features bills imposing new regulations on PBMs including one from Health Care Financing Committee Co-chair Rep. John Lawn (H 1215) that would require the managers to be licensed and offer patients a "reasonable" network to access prescription drugs.

In March, patient advocates, business leaders and independent pharmacists launched the Patients Not PBMs coalition in support of Lawn's bill and others.

The coalition contents that the "big three" PBMs of Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and OptumRx together "control over 70 percent of the market" and "collect tens of billions of dollars in rebates and discounts on medicines that would otherwise be passed on to consumers."

PBM backers argue that their negotiations can reduce overall health care costs by boosting competition and incentivizing patients to use lower-cost pharmacies.

The Senate has sought in two sessions to subject PBMs to new regulatory scrutiny, but neither measure gained traction in the House.

Reporter: Chris Lisinski, State House News Service


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