Rep. Sasser hears support for mailing prescriptions policy

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 17, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — The N.C. House Health Care Working Group has a list of 69 policy options to consider to assist health care professionals during the COVID-19 outbreak.

N.C. Rep. Wayne Sasser, R-67, spoke about the problems facing the pharmaceutical industry and proposed policy that would provide aid during Tuesday’s working group meeting. Sasser is a Albemarle pharmacist.

Sasser requested legislation to allow pharmacists to administer COVID vaccines once developed, antibody testing, dispense naloxone and help manage chronic diseases. He also wanted legislation to ensure drugs can be mailed to patients.

Rep. Gale Adcock, D-41, said to Sasser she thought there was a law in place that allowed prescriptions to be mailed.

Sasser said “with all good intentions” the 2017 law did not solve the problem. The law said pharmacy benefit management, a third-party administrator of prescription drug programs, could not keep pharmacists to provide medications to their patients, but in contracts between PBMs and pharmacies, the PBMs will not allow pharmacies to mail prescriptions.

Sasser reminded the working group members Ken Lewis, the executive director of NC Association of Health Plans, said at Tuesday’s meeting, 9 million of the 10 million patients in the state are regulated by PBMs.

“Even though, the 2017 law looks like to me logically that you can do anything you need to do as long as you’re looking after your patients and they’re getting their medications,” Sasser said. “What happens is PBMs own mail-ordered pharmacies and they own speciality pharmacies, so they don’t want any competition. They want to maintain that monopoly.”

In the current pandemic, patients want their prescriptions to be mailed to prevent interactions, not even delivered to limit interactions with others.

“If there is ever a case that makes that whole policy look as bad as it is it’s today when we can’t get medications to our patients,” Sasser said.

He said pharmacists are looking for temporary solution to be able to get medications to their patients.

He is working on a long-term solution in a bill, which he said will likely be taken up this summer.

Rep. Verla Insko, D-56, said she would like a long-term in-depth discussion about ensuring prescriptions can be mailed, but said Sasser’s request is “good for the emergency.”

Sasser also said pharmacists need to be involved more with patients with chronic illnesses, “simply because were more readily available” and see the patients every week to every month. He has brought this issue up before in the regular health committee meetings.

In an unrelated matter, Sasser requested a future conversation about bringing broadband to prisons, which would help in the current pandemic to provide telehealth services.

The committee will consider a bill draft next Thursday.  The legislature will go into session on April 28.

Co-chair Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-75, said Gov. Roy Cooper would be sending his requests over as well. Rep. Larry Yarborough, R-2, said some of the policy options could be instituted by the governor.