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Advocates, pharmacists weigh in on prescription drug cost reducing legislation

Advocates, pharmacists weigh in on prescription drug cost reducing legislation  (WRGB FILE)
Advocates, pharmacists weigh in on prescription drug cost reducing legislation (WRGB FILE)
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The price of prescription medications is one step closer to being more affordable in New York.

The state senate passed a number of bills Tuesday to lower the cost of drugs and bolster affordability.

The seven pieces of legislation are aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs and treatment for New Yorkers including capping the cost of insulin at 30 dollars. something advocates are looking forward to.

Advocates at AARP New York say capping off costs of insulin will ensure all New Yorkers get medication needed regardless of insurance status.

“Insulin was capped at the federal level just for Medicare enrollees. But now the New York State Senate wants to cap that for all New Yorkers; for those who are not on Medicare,” said Bill Ferris, AARP New York Legislative Representative. “To make drugs accessible and affordable and the end result clearly is the better health of those people when they can afford their drugs."

Local pharmacist Dr. Zarina Jalal of Albany's Lincoln Pharmacy says she too is looking forward to more affordable healthcare.

But she wants clarification on the insulin cap law and who's picking up that extra cost.

“We need to be mindful of where that money is coming from,” she said. "I am worried that it'll be the pharmacy that's on the hook to cover the $70 between the $100 that's the current out of pocket maximum and the $30 that's being proposed. That can't happen; we can't be subsidizing these programs."

Dr. Jalal says if pharmacies are required to carry that extra cost- patients could see certain brands of insulin no longer being carried.

Meanwhile, another first step would be the expansion of the EPIC program, a state insurance plan which assists the elderly who need help paying for their prescriptions.

"There are a lot of people in that generation between 65 and 70, or older who are Medicare eligible but they're still working so they're taking advantage of their insurance through their workplaces,” Dr. Jalal said. “For those individuals in particular having that EPIC program and eligibility for EPIC is something that will be helpful."

With inflation, advocates say some New Yorkers are having to choose between medications and paying to keep a roof over their head.

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"When people can't afford their drugs, they have to figure out what other parts of their household budget they have to cut,” Ferris said. “Or which we at AARP are very afraid of is that people will not take their prescription drugs that they have been prescribed by their doctor."

Other elements of the legislation would permit out-of-state prescription drug shipments in times of need and require patients be notified of drug cost increases.

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These bills are still under review in the Assembly. They would have to pass there before they head to the Governor’s desk for her consideration.

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