Letters to the Editor

Prescription costs

Prescription-drug abuse in Florida and nationwide is a serious problem that deserves real solutions. Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature is considering legislation that does not address the problem and will raise costs for the state’s employers and public health programs.

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 422 and House Bill 363, would make employers and others that provide healthcare benefits cover brand-name opioid drugs — also known as abuse-deterrent formulation (ADF) opioids — even when more-affordable generics are available.

In Tennessee, similar legislation was rejected because it would have cost the state and its residents $11 million in just the first year.

Mandating coverage of more expensive brand pain medications raises costs but offers no additional clinical benefit to patients.

A recent study highlighted in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the introduction of ADF OxyContin ultimately resulted in abusers’ increased use of alternative opioids, like heroin.

A better solution for reducing prescription drug abuse is to prevent potential abusers from getting inappropriate drugs at the pharmacy counter.

At the federal level, Congress is considering legislation that directs Medicare drug plans to create “safe pharmacies” to dispense controlled substances to those beneficiaries at high risk for abuse.

This type of program protects patients’ access to needed medications, but prevents “drugstore shopping,” which occurs when abusers target multiple drugstores until they find the one that will dispense the drugs they want.

Florida lawmakers should consider these facts, and oppose SB 422 and HB 363.

Mark Merritt, president and CEO, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, Washington, D.C.