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Minnesota Consumers Gain Rx Protections

Wins include emergency refills and cost information from pharmacists

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Patients in Minnesota who lack a prescription for medications they have been taking for a long time can get a onetime emergency refill, one of several prescription drug measures enacted this spring.

As part of Minnesota's new state budget, the rule enables pharmacists to review a patient's record and refill a medicine even without a current prescription from a doctor or other provider. A pharmacist can provide a refill just once, after which the patient's provider will have to refill the prescription. Another measure allows prescription refills to be coordinated so consumers who take more than one drug can renew all of them at the same time. These provisions take effect Aug. 1.

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Minnesota has also joined a number of states — and Congress — in passing a measure outlawing so-called gag clauses by pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies. These clauses have prevented pharmacists from telling consumers that there may be a cheaper way for them to get their medicines than using their drug insurance plans.

One measure that was partially enacted in Minnesota would provide greater transparency on pharmaceutical drug prices. Money was included in the state budget for a program that will let consumers know when prescription drug prices are increasing dramatically. Funding is available to start the program, but state officials and lawmakers have yet to work out the details of the initiative.

"Minnesota passed several bills this year to address the high cost of prescription drugs for consumers,” says Mary Jo George, AARP Minnesota associate state director for advocacy. “There is still much more to do, but these efforts continue the momentum of holding big drugmakers accountable for skyrocketing drug prices."

The gains in Minnesota are among 19 measures enacted in 14 states this year that will help lower the cost of prescription drugs for consumers and shine a light on price increases. This spring, AARP launched its Stop Rx Greed campaign, designed to persuade state and federal lawmakers to pass legislation that will beat back high medication prices.

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