Whitmer launches task force on prescription drug prices

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Lowering prescription drug prices will be the goal of a task force officially formed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday.

Whitmer signed an executive order to create the panel, which is charged with recommending by Aug. 15 ways to lower prescription drug costs and increase transparency in the pricing of prescription drugs in Michigan.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her the State of the State address at the Capitol Building in Lansing, Mich. on Jan. 29, 2020.

"There are people who are already struggling to get by, who know that any day, they could get a diagnosis that would put them in severe medical debt," Whitmer said in a statement. "That has to change. This task force will take us one step closer to increasing transparency and lowering costs for Michiganders."

During her State of the State address on Jan. 29, Whitmer vowed to create a task force to examine prescription drug prices. The governor said at the time, if people can't afford prescriptions, "you could wind up in the ER ... or worse."

The governor's Friday announcement cited a 2019 study in the journal Jama Network Open that examined 49 top-selling brand-name drugs. Of those drugs, 44% have more than doubled in price since 2012.

The new task force will be housed within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and will include three department directors in Whitmer's administration. Five state lawmakers — two Republicans and three Democrats — will also serve on the task force.

The lawmakers are Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids; Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy; Rep. Hank Vaupel, R-Fowlerville; Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington; and Rep. Angela Witwer, D-Delta Township.

VanderWall chairs the Senate Health Policy Committee while Vaupel chairs the House Health Policy Committee.

Dominick Pallone, executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans, released a statement Friday, saying the organization supports the new task force.

"Rising pharmaceutical costs are a major factor in increased health insurance costs in our state," Pallone said.