Advocates and lawmakers applaud passage of historic drug pricing reform bill

A Prescription Drug Affordability Council will help lower prescription drug costs for many New Jerseyans 

Trenton—June 30,2023—Advocates, activists, and policy experts joined lawmakers in applauding the passage of a landmark prescription drug pricing reform bill.  A2840/S1615 will establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Council that will help rein in skyrocketing drug prices for New Jerseyans struggling with health care costs and other essential needs. 

“For years I have worked in partnership with New Jersey Citizen Action on legislation that would truly make medicine more affordable and accessible so that no one has to make the tough decision between taking their pills or paying their bills,” said Senator Troy Singleton (D-Moorestown). “The passage of our prescription drug affordability legislation today is a monumental achievement, and I am incredibly proud and thankful to the NJCA team for their advocacy, tenacity, and leadership on this issue.” 

“Many consumers have struggled to afford necessary medicine,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “This legislation will help us understand what’s behind the rise in drug prices and allow us to develop policies focused on affordability, while keeping those in the industry accountable for their actions.” 

“It’s been a long road, but we finally have a law that puts us on the path of making prescription drugs more affordable for New Jerseyans,” said NJCA Healthcare Program Director Laura Waddell. “We thank Senator Singleton, Assemblyman McKeon, and other sponsors for tirelessly championing this legislation and applaud all our elected leaders who voted for and supported meaningful drug pricing reform. We also thank all our New Jersey for Affordable Drugs campaign partners and the countless grassroots advocates and activists whose work made this day possible. We look forward to Governor Murphy signing this bill into law at the earliest opportunity.” 

“We commend the NJ Legislature for standing up to big drug companies and passing S1615/A2840 to establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Council that requires pricing transparency across the prescription drug supply chain, including transparency from drug manufacturers,” said Crystal McDonald, AARP New Jersey Associate State Director of Advocacy. “High prescription drug prices hit older Americans particularly hard. More than two out of three NJ voters 50 plus are concerned they won’t be able to afford the medicines they need in the future. S1615/A2840 is a major step forward in understanding and responding to the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs. We applaud Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman John McKeon for championing the legislation, and we look forward to the Governor swiftly enacting S1615/A2840.” 

“Millions of people simply cannot afford their prescribed medications, with drug prices far above and beyond those of other countries,” said Brittany Holom-Trundy, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). “Without meaningful action from the federal government, it’s up to states like New Jersey to tackle this crisis head on. The creation of a Drug Affordability Council should bring transparency to the pharmaceutical industry and help lawmakers identify new data-driven ways to rein in drug prices. This is a great first step toward a future where no one has to choose between their medication and keeping a roof over their head or putting food on the table.”   

A2840/S1615 combines pricing transparency with a mechanism to create prescription drug affordability policy reforms that will benefit all New Jerseyans. The legislation establishes a Drug Affordability Council of independent experts charged with analyzing key data from the pharmaceutical supply chain for cost drivers. This council will make policy recommendations to the executive and legislative branches focused on increasing affordability at the pharmacy counter.  

Research shows that 57% of New Jerseyans continue to struggle to afford their health care. More than half  of New Jersey residents are concerned about being able to afford prescription medication, while 1 in 4 New Jersey adults report not filling a prescription, cutting a dose in half, or skipping a dose to make their medicine last longer. The affordability crisis has most severely impacted communities of color.   

“This is great news for me,” said Camden County resident Susan Farrell.  “I’m on a fixed income and I have a number of medical issues.  For so long, it’s been a monthly struggle trying to afford my medications and many times I am having to choose between the prescriptions I need to keep me going, or paying for my groceries, my rent, or doing my laundry.  It’s good to know that help is finally on the way.” 

The pharmaceutical industry fought hard against this bill, but it unsurprisingly enjoyed widespread support among New Jerseyans. Similar legislation has passed in Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington, and is pending in 9 other states.  

“The passage of bill S1615 is very important to our membership within the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, as we represent over 44 branches and youth and college chapters encompassing many people of color across the state that struggle to afford their medications at double and triple the rates of everyone else,” said Richard T. Smith, President, NAACP New Jersey State Conference. “Way too often do we see communities of color having to choose between the high prices of prescription drugs, versus other daily necessities, and this shouldn’t have to be a reality, but unfortunately it is. Lower prescription drug costs will substantially help black and brown people across the state who are currently plagued by the expensive costs of their medications. Prescription drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them, and the high cost of prescription drugs has had a negative impact overall. A Prescription Drug Affordability Council will help lead us towards the direction of prescription drug affordability in New Jersey, and we applaud the legislature for finally getting us one step closer towards this goal through the passage of this bill”. 

“NJ Appleseed welcomes passage of S1615/A2840, an important first step toward lowering the high cost of prescription medications through creation of a Drug Affordability Council to formulate legislative and regulatory policy recommendations to achieve that goal,” said Renée Steinhagen, Executive Director, NJ Appleseed Public Interest Law Center. “NJ Appleseed thanks our fellow members of the NJ for Healthcare Coalition who have worked with us on this legislation for years and the sponsors—Senators Singleton, Vitale and Pou and Assembly members McKeon, McKnight, Moen and Moriarty. This bill will literally save lives and we call on Governor Murphy to sign it into law as soon as possible so the Drug Affordability Council can begin its vital work.” 

“The passing of these bills means real reform to lower prescription drug costs,” said Beryl Koblin, Steering Committee Member, Indivisible Central NJ. “Our members should not have to skip or ration prescription doses due to high cost.  This brings real relief to those who need living-saving medicines.”