AUGUSTA – Gov. John Baldacci signed a pair of bills aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, an important element of the larger issue of health care, while two others were on his desk Tuesday awaiting action.

A bill signed Monday will require pharmacies to disclose the actual retail price for each prescription purchase. Supporters say the law will help consumers save money by making informed choices in their drug purchases.

“Information is power. Maine people deserve to be shown the true costs of their medication,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Lemoine, D-Old Orchard Beach.

Another bill signed Monday will require pharmacists to dispense generic drugs that have the same therapeutic value as name brands unless doctors specify otherwise. The bill does not apply to MaineCare prescriptions, which are subject to different rules.

The sponsor, Sen. Michael Brennan, D-Portland, called the bill “a simple, straightforward way to reduce prescription costs in Maine. Ultimately, reduced costs will increase access for all Maine people.”

The Democratic governor plans to sign a bill requiring companies that manufacture prescription drugs to disclose to the state how much they spend marketing their products in Maine, a spokesman for Baldacci said.

The heavily debated bill requires drug manufacturers to file annual reports with the Department of Human Services that show their marketing costs.

“We keep hearing from drug companies that they charge so much for prescriptions because of the high cost of research and development, but evidence shows that drug companies spend twice as much money on advertising and marketing,” the sponsor, Rep. Thomas Kane, D-Saco, said in a prepared statement.

Opponents labeled the legislation an intrusion into private business information and said it would have little impact on drug prices.

On Tuesday, the Senate gave final approval and sent to Baldacci a bill that sets ethical standards and disclosure requirements for companies that manage prescription drug benefits offered through health plans in Maine.

Spokesman Doug Dunbar said Baldacci was evaluating the bill.

Supporters said the intent of the bill is to prevent conflicts of interest that sway benefit managers toward certain manufacturers at the expense of consumers.

While the drug bills completed their course, discussions on Baldacci’s legislation to create a universal health care system continued Tuesday in the State House.

Insurers, hospitals, providers and state officials were among those who participated in talks to refine the governor’s Dirigo plan while a select legislative committee that’s been studying it canceled the day’s work session.



On the Net:

Maine Senate (Health Care Page): http://www.mainesenate.org/Issues/healthcare/healthcare.html

AP-ES-06-03-03 1736EDT



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