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New Mexico Caps Insulin Costs, Plans to Import Medicines

AARP-supported Rx bills working their way through statehouses across the country

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed two bills into law designed to give her residents a break from the soaring costs of prescription drugs. One measure will cap copays and out-of-pocket expenses for insulin at $25 per prescription per month, and the other paves the way for the state to get federal permission to begin importing medicines from Canada.

New Mexico's cap becomes the lowest in the country. Illinois adopted a $100 ceiling on monthly insulin prescriptions this year, following on the heels of Colorado, which adopted the same cap last year. Nineteen states are considering measures to address the high cost of insulin.

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"This law ends an unacceptable dilemma for thousands of New Mexicans with diabetes forced to choose between lifesaving insulin and other expenses,” Grisham said Wednesday as she signed the legislation. More than 14 percent of New Mexicans have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The drug importation legislation Grisham signed directs state health officials to develop a plan to submit to federal officials by Dec. 15 of this year. With enactment of this legislation, New Mexico joins Vermont, Maine, Colorado and Florida in passing legislation that calls for importing lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and, in some cases, other countries. Although federal law allows for drug importation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has never approved such a program. Late last year, HHS officials unveiled a plan to give states, wholesalers and pharmacies a pathway to safely import certain drugs. That proposal has not been made final.

"These bills are about providing New Mexicans with increased access to affordable prescription drugs as part of AARP's national effort to stop Rx greed,” says DeAnza Valencia, AARP New Mexico's associate director for advocacy. The state bill to cap insulin was sponsored by Rep. Micaela Cadena and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, and the drug importation measure was authored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen and Rep. Debbie Armstrong.

The two bipartisan New Mexico bills and Illinois’ capping of insulin prices brings to three the number of state measures designed to curb runaway prescription drug prices adopted so far in 2020. Beginning in 2019, AARP launched its “Stop Rx Greed” campaign aimed at convincing federal and state officials and lawmakers to enact policies and laws that will help provide Americans with lower-priced prescription drugs.

In 2019 alone, 26 state legislatures passed 40 bills that AARP supported and so far in 2020, 33 states are considering 88 pieces of prescription drug-related measures that AARP supports. “The speed that state legislatures are moving bills this year signals the compelling need to help consumers struggling to afford lifesaving prescription drugs,” says Elaine Ryan, AARP vice president for state advocacy.

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