As readers of this blog know, the debate on healthcare costs extends far beyond Washington and into state legislative chambers. We’ve written previously that several states have investigated pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and are examining how to bring much-needed transparency to PBMs’ operations. But other states are considering price controls and policies that could restrict patient access to life-saving medication. This week, lawmakers in Maine began debate on several pieces of legislation related to drug pricing and importation.
Let us explain.
The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) has been heavily involved in the Maine debate. NASHP also has been working on drug importation legislation in Vermont – and has admitted that those efforts are funded by the Arnold Foundation. The Arnold Foundation, recently rebranded as Arnold Ventures, also has supported NASHP’s Pharmacy Cost Work Group.
This working group, it turns out, is detailed in a report issued last month by the Maine Health Data Organization, a government agency. That paper explains NASHP’s working group, which convened last year, included “representatives from Maine and New Hampshire who have been charged with studying potential approaches to prescription drug transparency and are required to report back to their legislatures.”
The report also notes NASHP “selected Mathematica Policy Research to partner with and to lead the effort to establish a Drug Pricing Transparency Minimum Dataset.” The data set would attempt to track “price increases across time, and provide an understanding of the contributors to those price increases both as reported by manufacturers and across the supply chain.”
Mathematica Policy Research also is an Arnold Foundation beneficiary, conducting work for it on charter schools and municipal wastewater testing methods. In fact, MPR has received nearly $1.5 million from the Arnolds since 2016.
The Arnolds, of course, successfully pushed similar issues and initiatives in Maryland. After the state legislature in Annapolis passed a bill to set up a “drug affordability board,” Arnold lobbyist Vinny DeMarco boasted to STAT News, “We’ve got a national model here.” STAT News noted DeMarco runs an “advocacy group backed by an array of nonprofits including the drug industry antagonists Arnold Ventures.”
Clearly DeMarco knew that Maryland wasn’t the Arnolds last effort to influence the debate about drug access and availability. And, based on the Maine Health Data Organization’s report, we know the organization intends to use its own beneficiaries to drive research toward Arnold Ventures’ desired outcome.