TAMPA, Fla. - A Florida lawmaker is pushing to make your next trip to the pharmacy easier and less expensive under a proposed bill to cut price gouging for drugs and give you more choice on where to get prescriptions filled.
Loretta Boesing will never forget the day something went wrong with her son's medication.
“My son, Wesley had a liver transplant at the age of 2. And after they shipped his medications in only a bag on a 102-degree day, he ended up going into liver transplant rejection,” said Boesing.
The medicine was not at the right temperature, which could destroy its effectiveness, she said. Eight years later, Boesing’s family is still forced to use mail-order pharmacies.
Known as PBMs, pharmacy benefit managers act as the middlemen between drugmakers and corporate-owned pharmacies. The challenges presented by PBMs are felt nationwide.
“Patients love us and they want to be a part of our pharmacy system. Increasingly though, they are being steered away from us, from the pharmacy of their choice and to a corporate pharmacy,” said Kevin Duane of Panama Pharmacy.
On Tuesday, pharmacists, patients, and Florida legislators met in Tampa to announce a new bill to oversee pharmacy benefit managers, stop price gouging and give consumers a choice on how they get their medications. State Representative Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) unveiled the legislation known as the Prescription Drug Cost Reduction Act or HB 961, and she said it has bi-partisan support.
“This is not just a pocketbook issue. This is a life and death issue for many of our constituents here in Florida,” said State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami).
Lawmakers said the lack of pharmacy choice has forced many Floridians to skip meds to avoid paying a high cost and others using mail order pharmacies have failed to get their prescriptions on time.
“For me, that strikes a heart chord because I know that my child’s life relies on that medication every 12 hours. And if he doesn’t have that medication, then we lose him,” said Boesing, who traveled from her home in Missouri to show support for Florida’s legislation.
For her, it comes down to getting the best care possible.
“I don’t want other patients to end up like my son. I feel a responsibility and a duty to protect the patients,” said Boesing.
Florida pharmacists said their small businesses are closing at an alarming rate because of the control over where patients can go.
Rep. Toledo said lawmakers expect pushback, but they argue something needs to change.