MERRITT: Undermining patient safety and raising costs in North Carolina

The North State Journal | Madeline Gray

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem that deserves real solutions. Unfortunately, a proposal before the North Carolina legislature would put patients at risk and raise costs for employers and public health programs.

The mandate, House Bill 1048, would force employers and others providing coverage to pay for expensive brand-name opioid medications – known as abuse-deterrent formulation (ADF) opioids – even when equally effective generics are available.

In Illinois, lawmakers recently rejected an identical bill that would have raised premiums and increased costs at the federal, state, and local levels of government, including $55 million for Illinois Medicaid alone.

Even worse, a recent study highlighted in the New England Journal of Medicineshowed thatthe ADF OxyContin often increased abusers’ use of alternative opioids, like heroin.

Another problem is that H.B. 1048 would eliminate “step therapy,” one of the most proven tool employers use to protect patients and reduce costs.

Step therapy is used to manage medications that may pose a safety risk, have a high potential for off-label or experimental use, or are much more expensive than competing options.

Since H.B. 1048 would force employers to make it easier for ADF opioids to be prescribed despite how dangerous they are and regardless of costs, the big winner would only be the brand drug makers of ADF opioids, who could raise prices at will.

North Carolina lawmakers should protect patients and employers by resisting this dangerous and costly proposal.

Mark Merritt

President and CEO, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association