DON’T BE SWAYED BY BIG PHRMA

June 21, 2017


We are proud of the work done on LD 1280, “An Act Regarding Generic Drug Pricing,” by the committee on which we sit, the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. This important bill passed through our committee by a vote of 11-2. Generic drugs are on average 75 percent less than their brand name counterpart and, when they are available, generic drugs are prescribed 90 percent of the time. In fact, generics saved Maine $954 million in 2015, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

LD 1280 would stop big PhRMA companies from illegal practices they regularly engage in. Through various tactics, PhRMA companies prevent the sale of their brand name drug samples to generic drug companies. This sale is required so generic drug companies can perform FDA required testing before they are released on the market. Often, PhRMA companies withhold these critical samples to prevent generic manufacturers from even filing an application with the FDA to get approval. This keeps generic versions of PhRMA’s products off pharmacy shelves for years – all while Mainers struggle to pay for the medicines they need. We all know someone struggling to make the tough decisions between paying for heating oil and paying for their prescriptions. That’s why this bill is so critical. Generic drugs save patients billions of dollars each year. That’s right: billions.

To fight this, PhRMA has turned the issue on its head and is putting out information that is simply untrue, trying to confuse Maine legislators.

But we are smarter than you think, PhRMA.

PhRMA alleges that generic drug company laboratories are not as safe as their labs. This is simply false. In fact, generics companies are regulated by the FDA with the same levels of safety standards as brand name companies. They also claim that LD 1280 is preempted by federal law. Federal law clearly prohibits brand name companies from using federal safety standards to block generic competition. LD 1280 is absolutely compatible with federal law and simply creates a penalty for companies who do not comply with laws that already exist.

The misinformation continues. PhRMA also claims that LD 1280 shifts liability to brand companies. The truth is, LD 1280 does nothing to change state civil or criminal liability laws. Perhaps the best of the bunch is that PhRMA claims we Mainers don’t understand federal patent law. They go as far as to say that LD 1280 infringes on patents. LD 1280 does absolutely nothing to change federal patent law. Generic drugs can only come to market after a patent has expired. What is the truth? PhRMA companies are abusing the lack of a penalty in federal law to artificially extend their monopolies after the patent has expired.

Maine legislators take pride in the laws that we write and always put the people of Maine as our first priority. PhRMA has their business interests as their first priority. Their well-armed and well-funded massive political reach has protected their illegal monopoly for decades, at the expense of our constituents. Drugs should simply not cost us all as much as they do. We are about to change that by requiring PhRMA companies to play by the rules.

I encourage my colleagues to join this bipartisan effort, supported in both bodies, and vote “Yes” on LD 1280. It’s time to tell big PhRMA that Mainers matter more than their illegal profits.

Rep. Karen Vachon is a Republican who represents House District 29 in the Maine Legislature which encompasses part of Scarborough. Rep. Jim Handy is a Democrat who represents House District 58 in the Maine Legislature which encompasses part of Lewiston. Both Representative Vachon and Representative Handy serve on the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee.