NEW BEDFORD -While the opioid epidemic continues its grip on America, a Massachusetts State Senator has continued his effort to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to lower the costs of prescription drugs, and to provide a clearer understanding of pricing schemes.

In a phone interview with WBSM News on Wednesday, State Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) spoke about the Senate's decision to adopt his amendment to the state's Health Act, which will call for an increase in transparency on prescription drug pricing schemes.

Senator Montigny has continuously advocated for pharmaceutical companies to be held responsible for lowering the costs of prescription drugs to ensure affordable health care for all state residents. The state senator also authored the original Massachusetts gift ban on pharmaceutical industry donations to physicians to curb bribery and illegal kickbacks in the health sector.

“Simply put, the insidious backroom lobbying tactics by the pharmaceutical industry can be matched by only two other special interests: the NRA and Big Tobacco,” Montigny said on the Senate floor at the passing of the amendment. “These tactics have resulted in weaker laws that have allowed companies like Insys and Purdue Pharmaceuticals to flood our communities with opioids while exerting inappropriate influences on physicians.”

According to a press release from Montigny, the Health Policy Commission (HPC) has found pharmacy spending to be the single largest source of health care costs to the state in 2017, nearly doubling its annual cost growth benchmark.

Under the amendment, pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers will be required to submit price-related data, including expenses associated with marketing and advertising as well as research and development, to the state's Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA). The measure will also give the Attorney General Maura Healey the power to order industry officials to provide documents, answers to interrogatories, and to solicit testimony under oath. A fine of $5,000 per week or $200,000 per violation, as well as potential legal action by the Attorney General can be imposed on companies that fail to provide information.

“All we're saying here is 'tell the truth about your information and charge a fair price for the consumer', and you can't do that without a fully transparent process,” Montigny said to WBSM News. “The bio-tech and pharmaceutical industry has totally skirted scrutiny, and for one reason, they have manipulated and corrupted the public process by spending lots and lots of money on willing politicians who take their money,” he said.

In a statement supporting the amendment, The Massachusetts Chapter of the American College of Physicians says, "We applaud Senator Montigny and his colleagues in the Senate for working tirelessly to increase prescription drug cost transparency. We believe Amendment #19 is a bold step in the right direction to bring increased transparency to skyrocketing prescription drug costs that are affecting our patients and our ability to care for them."

The amendment still must make it through the Massachusetts House of Representatives, who Montigny says has rejected his previous attempts to put pressure on the pharmaceutical industry due to lobbying and bribery from industry leaders. He says that as “most of the corruption has gone on in Washington (D.C.),” he's also been thwarted numerous times on Beacon Hill.

“It's been one of my longtime fights,” Montginy said. “I think basically 90% of the public is fed up with pharmaceutical industry price gouging, and the other 10% must work for the pharmaceutical industry, because I don't know anyone who's happy with the lobbying that has gone on.”


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