Fairbanks legislator will reintroduce bills to prompt discussion
November 03, 2006
Guttenberg plans to reintroduce a package of bills to address the rising costs of prescription drugs. When he offered a similar seven-piece package of legislation in the 24th Alaska Legislature, Consumers Union, publishers of the highly-respected "Consumer Reports" magazine, dubbed it a legislative "truth package."
"A major component of the nearly $8 billion unfunded PERS/TRS liability is health care costs, and pharmaceuticals are the fastest growing segment of those costs," Guttenberg said. "My bills can begin a critical statewide discussion of how we can reduce the PERS/TRS unfunded liability. No, they aren't a cure-all, but they could directly benefit every Alaskan."
The bills address costs and provide consumers greater awareness of clinical drug trials, pharmaceutical advertising and marketing, and drug companies' expenses in promoting their products to doctors. One measure creates the Alaska Prescription Drug Task Force, and requires the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to investigate ways to both reduce the cost of prescription drugs and increase affordable access to prescription drugs to Alaska residents. Among the measures suggested for immediate review are participation in bulk purchasing programs, increased usage of generic drugs, and rebate programs.
On average, Americans consume about 3 billion prescriptions a year. Between 1995 and 2002, the average increase for drug expenditures was 15 percent higher than for any other type of health care expense. Prescription drug costs increased at more than three times the rate of inflation from January 2003 to January 2004. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry continues as the most profitable business in the United States.
"Whether you're a PERS/TRS retiree or not, too many people are forced to choose between necessary medications and putting food on their tables," Guttenberg said. "That's a choice no Alaskan should have to make."
Guttenberg is a member of the nonpartisan National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (http://www.nlarx.org/).
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