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New solution to lowering Rx price? States, insurers, others manufacture drugs themselves

Drug WasteTired of waiting for the federal government to do something about rising prescription drug prices, a group of health insurers announced plans to start manufacturing their own versions of popular generic medications.

The goal: Create enough competition to prompt Big Pharma to drop prices—at least on generics.

The effort comes from a consortium of 18 independent and locally owned Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans. The group has not said which drugs it will make, but officials indicated the list would include generic medications widely used by patients with common, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and some mental health conditions.

“Drug corporations are ripping people off, and anyone who wants to compete with them deserves credit,” Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs, told the Los Angeles Times.

The consortium plans to make its first lower-priced drugs available to patients by early 2022. They are working with Civica Rx, a Utah-based nonprofit.

The drugs they produce will be limited to generic medicines, which other manufacturers can produce after the original patents expire. This represents a fraction of the total drug spending in the United States and does not challenge the brand-name market.

Wakana likened the effort to “putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole.” Still, he acknowledged this is a first step.

How have you or someone you love been affected by rising Rx prices? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.