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AARP urging North Dakota lawmakers to get at the root causes of prescription drug prices

A Legislative interim committee is looking at the issue of prescription drug costs – and finding ways of lowering those costs.

The issue is before the interim Health Care Committee.

"If North Dakota doesn't act, it's going to be at the cost of older North Dakotans and taxpayers," said AARP North Dakota director Josh Askvig.

Askvig said putting this off will continue to force thousands of North Dakotans to have to decide between medications, and food or rent.

"We're pushing the Legislature to take actions that really get at the root of what's happening with prescription drug pricing," Askvig said.

Askvig said methods being discussed in an attempt to lower the costs is "importing" the prices Canadians pay for prescriptions, and make it a “reference” price, having the state import lower cost drugs from other countries, or setting up “affordability boards.”

AARP senior policy advisor James McSpadden said the pharmaceutical companies have tried to deflect the discussion from the prices they set. He said they point fingers at other people in the drug supply chain.

"It could be pharmacy benefit managers," McSpadden said. "It could be pharmacies or wholesalers. Whatever it is, it's to distract from the prices."

McSpadden said AARP believes prices are the root of the issue.

"Until we address the high prices of the druges themselves, we will not be able to achieve meaningful reform," McSpadden said.

Askvig said the state took an important first step in 2021, by implementing some prescription drug transparency measures.

"What can we understand, or being to understand, from that data that's being collected, that could inform what an option or opportunity might look like for North Dakota, to reform prescription drug pricing?"

The interim committee could be making proposals to the 2023 legislative session.

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