Patient Advocates, Employer and Healthcare Policy Groups Call on Legislature to Reject Murphy’s Plan to Raise the Price of Medicines in FY 2021 Budget Proposal
TRENTON, N.J. – Today, a diverse group of New Jersey patient, healthcare, and employer advocates opposed Governor Murphy’s proposal to include significant fees on pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesale distributors in the Fiscal Year 2021 State Budget. These groups — including the American Cancer Society of New Jersey Cancer Action Network, Home Care & Hospice Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Pharmacists Association, the New Jersey Council of Chain Drug Stores, New Jersey Business and Industry Association, and the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey — cite serious concerns that such substantial fees would harm patients and increase healthcare costs.
According to Sam DeAlmeida, New Jersey Government Relations Director of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), “ACS CAN supports balanced policies that address the public health concerns relevant to the opioid epidemic and that do not harm patient access to medications that they need to treat pain appropriately. Given, approximately 53,340 state residents will receive a cancer diagnosis this year, the importance of access to medications cannot be understated. Last year, ACS CAN urged lawmakers to reject an Executive Budget proposal that could have led to increased prices for cancer patients seeking treatment to manage their pain. We urge the governor’s office and legislature to consider cancer patient consequences on all legislative approaches as you look forward to FY2021.”
“We are very concerned this is a tax on some of the most vulnerable patients in our state and the overall access to care,” said John Holub, Executive Director of New Jersey Council of Chain Drug Stores. “Taxing the healthcare distribution network is simply bad public policy to make up for state budget shortfalls.”
“Combatting opioid addiction must be a focus of the legislature. However, opioid-based medications are a crucial component of pain management, particularly for end-of-life and at-home care,” said Nancy Fitterer, President of the Home Care and Hospice Association of New Jersey. “Our members use opioid-based medications daily when caring for patients with chronic pain, cancer, or degenerative and terminal diseases—all of which can be extremely painful. That is why it is imperative that our hospice and home care patients and providers are able to access prescription opioids at affordable prices. The Home Care & Hospice Association of New Jersey strongly believes that any financial assessment on our healthcare supply chain would disrupt in-home and hospice-care, harming patients in the process. The state’s focus must be on opening the door to those who need care instead of restricting access and increasing cost burdens on vulnerable patients.”
“Across New Jersey, patient and provider groups fear that patients with legitimate need for these prescription drugs will find their prescribed opioid medications in short supply, and pharmacies will pay higher acquisition costs that will raise the cost at the pharmacy counter,” said Elise M. Barry, MS, CFRE, Chief Executive Officer of New Jersey Pharmacists Association. “The intent to monitor manufacturing and distribution by assessing additional fees will not be a cost borne only by the manufacturers and wholesalers. The assessment fee will become part of a higher drug cost for both the pharmacy and the patient.”
In his budget address. Governor Murphy called on lawmakers to include a proposal that would increase registration fees on the healthcare supply chain by tens of millions of dollars in the Fiscal Year 2021 State Budget. Last year, both chambers of the Legislature rejected this $21 million fee increase from their budgets.
Many patient advocates, business organizations and even lawmakers have expressed skepticism over the opioid proposal, fearing it would have unintended consequences on patients and the New Jersey healthcare system.
“We certainly acknowledge that the opioid epidemic is a serious problem that deserves the attention of state lawmakers,” said Christina M. Renna, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey. “However, raising costs on the healthcare system in order to fund New Jersey’s response to the epidemic would bring significant financial consequences to our state’s residents including business owners, healthcare professionals, and patients.
NJBIA Chief of Government Affairs Chrissy Buteas warned of the harmful impact the policy recently had on our neighboring state of New York, “In New York, a similar tax was enacted last year, and the consequences have been visible. Drug prices have increased, pharmacies have closed down, and many distributors have stopped shipping prescription medications to the state, leading to dangerous shortages for patients. New Jersey should not repeat this same mistake.”