A plan is moving forward to lower the cost of prescription drugs for New Jersey residents.

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, calls for establishing state bulk purchasing cooperatives and creating a prescription drug affordability board.

But not everybody agrees that this is a good idea, including the pharmaceutical industry, whose industry group called Singleton's proposal "the wrong approach."

Tiffany Haverly, the director of public affairs for PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that creating an affordability board could limit patient access to important medication based on what's been seen in other countries where similar controls are in place.

“We’ve seen that boards like this could have a devastating impact on patient access and that’s not theoretical — that’s a reality," she said.

She said one major issue is that 40% of a medicine’s list price is rebated back to entities in the supply chain, including pharmacy benefit managers, which are third-party administrators that set prices for prescription drugs.

“You’re talking about half of every dollar that’s being spent on brand medicines is going to someone other than the researching and manufacturing this medicine," she said.

She suggested the current system is responsible for having patients pay more than they should.

“We believe that the rebates and discounts that our companies provide should be shared with the patients at the pharmacy counter," she said.

“We also believe that patients should have more predictable cost-sharing options and that medicines should be covered from Day��1.”

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Pharmaceutical companies also have assistance programs that help cover the cost of medications that patients may not be able to afford.

Haverly said PhRMA launched an online medicine assistance tool last year, mat.org, which gathers more than 900 public and private assistance programs together and lets people see what financial help is available.

PhRMA companies, many of them in New Jersey, are doing research on threats like the new coronavirus, which has started spreading out of China to other countries around the world.

“It’s a very exciting time for medicine,” she said. “But that being said, we do understand there are challenges patients are having affording and accessing their medicines and we want to be part of the solution.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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