Retail Pharmacies, Charitable Clinics Discuss Drug Prices with Governor’s Task Force

May 21, 2020

After a two-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’s Task Force on Reducing Prescription Drug Prices held a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 20.  The task force was created through Governor Tony Evers’ Executive Order 39 and is charged with making recommendations for reducing prescription drug prices in Wisconsin. Task force membership includes Door County Medical Center CEO Brian Stephens.
Health care consumers are invited to address the task force at the beginning of each meeting. For the start of this meeting, a patient suffering from several chronic health conditions described the struggle he has had affording inhalers that he needs for managing COPD. He began to ration his doses due to the cost and reduced his doses from four doses to one per day. He also discussed the financial challenges of paying for necessary drugs which often leaves little money for other monthly expenses.
The meeting then proceeded to presentations from pharmacies and free and charitable clinics.
The importance of team-based care in improving patient outcomes, especially those with chronic health conditions was noted by Paul Cesarz, Manager Community Pharmacy Professional Services at Mercy Walworth (part of Mercyhealth Regional Health Care System), on behalf of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. Cesarz cited studies showing that when pharmacists and other health care providers collaborate at the time of a hospital patient’s discharge, hospital readmissions and health care costs can be reduced. Cesarz described the impact of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) on pharmacies and drug costs and urged the task force to support 2019 Assembly Bill 114 if introduced during the 2021-22 state legislative biennium. That legislation contains a number of provisions that would increase oversight of PBM practices, limit the amount a health plan enrollee would pay at the point of sale, and prohibit gag clauses (prohibiting PBMs from penalizing a pharmacy for informing an enrollee of the difference between the enrollee’s out-of-pocket cost for the drug and the amount the person would pay for the drug without using health insurance). 
Dan Strause, managing partner at Hometown Pharmacy, offered additional perspectives on the role of independent pharmacies in the drug supply chain and professed the value added by independent pharmacies compared to large chain pharmacies and mail order pharmacies.
Yolanda Tolson-Eveans, Pharmacist in Charge at St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy; and Ian Hedges, CEO of HealthNet of Rock County, offered the perspective of pharmacies that provide safety-net care and prescription drugs to consumers without health insurance. Strategies include sourcing drugs from the state’s drug repository sites that are established to take in unused drugs from consumers; prescription drug discount programs offered by organizations including Americares, Direct Relief, Merck and other drug manufacturers; and Dispensary of Hope, which operates as a drug dispensary akin to the Second Harvest food distribution organization.
Tolson-Eveans and Hedges offered several policy proposals, including state funding for free and charitable clinics, noting that Virginia utilizes funds from a Purdue Pharma legal settlement to support these clinic operations. Other proposals included modifications to Wisconsin’s drug depository law to enable out-of-state pharmacies to participate in Wisconsin’s drug depository, and crediting volunteer hours of pharmacists and other providers at free and charitable clinics as continuing education credits.
The meeting concluded with preliminary discussions of policy ideas generated from prior meetings and from research by task force staff. The task force will focus on hospital drug costs and other issues at its next meeting on June 18, which will most likely be a virtual meeting.
For further information on the Task Force, contact WHA’s Laura Rose or Jon Hoelter.


This story originally appeared in the May 21, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter