Wednesday, 30 January 2019 12:02

Lawmakers urged to improve medication access

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AUGUSTA - Patients and healthcare advocates are urging lawmakers to limit the barriers to medication.

They were in Augusta on Tuesday to share their stories and stress to legislators the need to pass a bill that would put limits on insurers that use a practice known as "step therapy" or "fail first."


Healthcare advocates said the practice requires patients to use a cheaper medication before they can get one they were originally prescribed by their doctor.


"If a cancer patient has significant pain or nausea preventing them from going to work or functioning in their daily life, we want them to be able to have access to that drug as quickly as possible," said Hillary Schneider, Maine government relations director for the American Cancer Society.


The patients and healthcare advocates said insurance companies can also use step therapy if a person switches to a new insurer when they change jobs.


They said a patient could be forced to use a drug they have tried before that did not work or they might have had an allergic reaction to under the former insurer.


A bill limiting the practice was vetoed by the previous administration. Supporters said they are cautiously optimistic this time.