McKee signs prescription drug bills, says paying for life-saving meds ‘should not be a cost burden’


PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee signed a pair of bills into law Wednesday that are designed to make prescription drugs more affordable for Rhode Islanders.

McKee stressed the importance of the legislation, saying, “Giving Rhode Islanders options to save money on their prescriptions is the right thing to do.”

The first bill limits insured patients’ copays for insulin used to treat diabetes to $40 for a 30-day supply.

“Managing diabetes and other diseases and illnesses should not be a cost burden to Rhode Island families,” McKee said.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that just under 10% of Rhode Island’s adult population is diabetic.

McKee noted that the cost of the four most popular types of insulin have tripled over the last decade, and some estimates suggest that approximately 1 in 4 people skip their doses because they can’t afford it.

“In Rhode Island and in the United States, this is unacceptable,” he said.

McKee said he was recently reading an article on the rising cost of insulin and was interested to learn about Sir Frederick G. Banting, the man who discovered insulin in 1923.

The article, according to McKee, said Banting refused to put his name on the patent for insulin because, “It was unethical for a doctor to profit on a discovery that would save lives.”

“It is past time that insulin and other life-saving medications are affordable and accessible to those who need them, but these pieces of legislation are about more than just cost – they are about public health,” he said.

Sen. Melissa Murray, one of the bill’s sponsors, said insulin is “absolutely critical to the lives of people with diabetes, many of whom are seniors or disabled people living on low fixed incomes.”

“Unaffordable insulin costs are a serious threat to public health,” Murray added. “No one should have to choose between paying for their life-saving medication, keeping their lights on or having enough groceries.”

The second bill prohibits clauses in pharmacy contracts that prevent pharmacists from offering patients more affordable prescription options. It also prohibits a pharmacy or pharmacist from being penalized for offering a lower-priced drug to customers.

Rep. Leonela Felix, one of the bill’s sponsors, said this legislation allows consumers to make cost-effective decisions while also keeping their health in mind.

“Pharmacists should be helping their customers get healthy at the lowest cost possible, not protecting profits of drug and insurance companies,” Felix said.

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