ND Lawmakers Make Key Decisions on Drug-Cost Bills

Mike Moen

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Those calling for sweeping action to reduce prescription-drug prices in North Dakota saw mixed results this legislative session.

One proposal was a price transparency bill. When a planned price hike exceeds 10% over one year or 40% over five years, the drug manufacturer would be required to explain why.

The bill has cleared hurdles in both chambers and is expected to go to the governor.

Josh Askvig, state director for AARP North Dakota, testified in support of the measure, saying it puts the issue out in the open.

"I think that could potentially put some pressure on them to not raise that by those percentages and prices," Askvig contended.

Another plan advanced calls for a study of prescription-drug costs and the implications of importing more affordable medications from Canada.

Separate legislation surrounding a wholesale-importation program did not advance.

The bills saw opposition from groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which cited drug-safety concerns.

Askvig noted they were disappointed those measures didn't pass, but added with the mandatory study, they're hopeful enough awareness will be raised about the rising costs of medication and the difficult choices seniors are making.

"'Do I make a rent payment, or do I pay for my medicine?'" Askvig asked. "And that shouldn't be the case."

In the meantime, he and other advocates urged those on tight budgets to have conversations with their doctors about the effectiveness of medication and what is needed for their situation.

The North Dakota Insurance Department has a program called Prescription Connection, which addresses access issues for individuals.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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