PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said last week that Oregon and Washington state will form a prescription drug-buying cooperative to leverage their combined buying power to get medicine for the uninsured.
The Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium is expected to begin joint purchasing within the year. It will bring together the Oregon prescription drug plan, a purchasing pool for low-income people 55 and older to access below-market price drugs, with a similar plan in Washington.
More than 5 million people are eligible for the programs that will now cooperatively shop for better deals for the two states.
"The rising cost of prescription drugs hurts everybody — families, businesses, and Oregon taxpayers," Kulongoski said. "But by buying smarter and buying together, Oregon can save millions of dollars on prescription drugs."
The announcement comes at the same time as a report from the Heinz Family Philanthropies that found Oregon could save up to $17 million a year by changing how the state buys prescription drugs.
Oregon's drug purchases, used for state-run programs such as Medicaid, would not be part of the two-state cooperative.
But the report, produced by the outside organization at the request of the governor, recommended several steps such as: consolidating how the state buys prescription drugs, increasing the attorney general's involvement in the process, seeking drug rebates and imposing a preferred drug list for the state Medicaid program.
The governor has twice tried to create an enforceable preferred drug list, but neither attempt was supported by the Legislature.
The report indicates the list, which would largely determine which drugs are used, could save $15 million. The governor said pharmaceutical industry influence in the Legislature prevented it from moving forward.
But Kulongoski said he is committed to making changes to prescription drug costs. And he will try again for a drug list and follow through on the other changes recommended by the Heinz organization, which is chaired by Teresa Heinz Kerry.
In addition, Oregon state election officials announced that an initiative measure sponsored by state Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, to expand Oregon's prescription drug discount program received enough petition signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot in November.
— The Associated Press