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FILE: Prescription pills are displayed. (AP Photo)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Prescription drugs are helping people live longer, providing better treatments for diseases and even saving lives.

Those popular goals are often cited when the industry comes under fire, and a new brief from the insurance industry suggests the time is right for more oversight and regulation. Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing on the spending control bills, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans pointed to health care costs that exceed state standards and identified prescription and specialty drug price increases as the main drivers behind rising employer and consumer costs.


In the new policy brief, the insurance trade group lays out recommendations that most call for state or federal action to address drug costs. One idea is to seek transparency in prescription drug pricing, and require the pharmaceutical industry to participate in annual cost trends hearings that draw other major healthcare players.

The policy brief calls for expanding the Health Policy Commission’s drug price review authority, creating penalties for excessive drug price increases and closely monitoring new treatments that weigh additional benefits against additional costs.

“Drug spending is high for a relatively small number of high-priced drugs,” the brief said. “Nationally, the cost of specialty drugs continues to grow, totaling $301 billion in 2021, a 43 percent increase from 2016. Brand-name drugs, which account for 80 percent of prescription drugs, have not changed much over time.

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